ECP may announce 'postponement' of Punjab elections next week

Muhammad Saleh Zaafir
A police official outside the Election Commission of Pakistan. — AFP/File
A police official outside the Election Commission of Pakistan. — AFP/File

  • SC had ordered Election Commission to hold polls in Punjab on May 14. 
  • Sources says ECP lacks required funds to hold elections.
  • PTI and govt are holding talks on holding election on same day.

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) may announce the postponement or cancellation of the Punjab elections — scheduled for May 14 — next week, sources within the body told The News.

As per the publication, the ECP has made it unequivocally clear that the Punjab Assembly elections cannot be held on May 14 as the scheduling of various actions and requirements could not be placed as per the timeline.

The sources said ECP is yet to place an order for printing of the ballot papers, pictorial voters list and other items. The retaining of the requisite staff and its training is yet to be done.

“The whole exercise involves a huge amount of money that isn’t available to the Election Commission,” the sources said.

On April 4, a three-member bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial ordered elections in Punjab on May 14 as it quashed the ECP’s decision to extend the polls date from April 30 to Oct 8.

In the order, the government was directed to provide Rs21bn in funds to ECP by April 10 and directed ECP to submit a report by April 11 on the issue.

The government refused to issue funds as the parliament did not approve the release of funds.

On April 14, the CJP-led bench ordered the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to release the funds directly to the Election Commission but it informed the court that it had allocated the funds but did not have the power to release them.

The April 4 order also made it liable for the government to share a security plan for the elections by April 17. This was also not fulfilled by the government

On April 18, ECP informed the Supreme Court that the conduct of polls on May 14 was getting impossible due to the non-provision of funds and forces for maintaining law and order.

“At least 466,000 personnel are required for security in Punjab,” the ECP said in its reply.

The electoral authority added that it had written a letter to the federation for providing Pakistan Army, Frontier Corps and Rangers personnel, but did not receive a reply.

The electoral body mentioned that it is its responsibility to conduct transparent, fair and peaceful polls.

“In view of ground facts, October 8 is the appropriate date to conduct elections,” it said and added that if there is no adherence to this date, then there is fear of anarchy in the country.

The day the report was submitted, top officials of the intelligence agencies briefed the Supreme Court on the current security challenges being faced by the country regarding elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Following the briefing, the Ministry of Defence filed a petition seeking polls on the same date. However, the top court rejected it.

The Supreme Court, while hearing the plea, ordered the government and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to hold talks on the issue.

The government and PTI have held two rounds of talks and the last and final round of talks is expected to be held today.