ECP. Army, rangers’ deployment at ‘sensitive polling stations in Karachi. Local bodies' elections in Karachi, Hyderabad & Thatta divisions will be held as per schedule on January 15: ECP

Local bodies’ elections in Karachi, Hyderabad & Thatta divisions will be held as per schedule on January 15: ECP

Elections Commission seeks army, rangers’ deployment at ‘sensitive polling stations’

ISLAMABAD ( Web News )

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday rejected the plea of Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) and ruled that the local bodies elections in Karachi, Hyderabad and Thatta divisions will be held as per schedule on January 15.

The Election Commission has declared that the LB elections will be held on the previous voter list.

The commission directed the Sindh government to complete arrangements for the elections, adding that the chief secretary and the law-enforcement agencies should also ensure that the elections were held on time and in free, fair and transparent manner.

The MQM-Pakistan had challenged the decision of the ECP for the prospective use of two separate electoral rolls in the local government polls simultaneously.

A three-member bench of the electoral body, headed by Chief Election Commissioner Dr. Sikandar Sultan Raja, reserved the verdict on Friday.

Jamaat-e-Islami Pakistan had also approached the Election Commission of Pakistan seeking the holding of polls according to the schedule, postponed multiple times for one reason or another.

Announcing the verdict, the ECP directed the authorities to ensure that elections are held on time.

During the last hearing, the chief election commissioner told the MQM-P lawyer that he has gone to various forums, however, the issue of electoral rolls was never raised before. He told the lawyer to raise any other issue so that they can be clubbed.

The CEC further remarked that the lawyer is giving a wrong statement regarding the dual electoral rolls, rejecting his statement.

“You think you can get the elections postponed again? Your arguments are irrelevant so far,” he noted.

CEC Raja also stressed that the local government elections in Karachi will not be delayed, saying that it’s the Election Commission of Pakistan’s job to conduct the polls.

Meanwhile as the second phase of local bodies polls in Karachi, Hyderabad and Thatta divisions is set to happen on January 15, the ECP has written a letter on Monday to the interior secretary, requesting the deployment of army and rangers at “sensitive polling stations” in all three divisions where LB elections are going to be held on 15th January.

Keeping in view of the law and order situation at sensitive polling stations, said the letter, army and rangers personnel must be deployed there to prevent any untoward incident.

The ECP, in its letter, has also sought fool-proof security arrangements for the polling staff, transportation of ballot papers from returning officers office to polling stations and back, and unrigged vote counting after the polling ends.

In a letter written by the LG Elections Director General Sharifullah – dated Jan 6 – the ECP asked for the “static deployment of Pakistan Army/Rangers troops outside highly sensitive polling stations along with already-approved QRF (Quick-reaction force) presence” on the day of the polls.

It said that the request was made “keeping in view the sensitivity of the areas concerned and in order to prevent any untoward incidents which are apprehended due to the volatile political environment”.

The ECP had scheduled the second phase of local government polls in Sindh on July 24, 2022, but then it postponed them because of torrential rains and subsequent floods in the province.

The electoral body rescheduled the LG elections for August 28, but they were put off again for the same reason.

On October 18, the ECP rescheduled the elections for October 23, but the provincial government sought their postponement for three months. It said it had deployed police in the flooded areas due to which it was unable to provide the required level of security to polling stations.

After repeated delays, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Jamaat-e-Islami moved the Sindh High Court, which on November 15 instructed the ECP to announce the date for the LG elections within 15 days. On November 22, the ECP announced January 15 as the new date.