Published On: Sun, Jan 15th, 2023
Published in Category: Islamabad

Second phase of Sindh local government elections will be held today: ECP

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ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: Election Commission of Pakistan has once again stated that the second phase of Sindh local government elections will be held today (Sunday).

According to a statement issued by provincial election commissioner, it was decided at an important meeting of the ECP chaired by Chief Election Commissioner Dr. Sikandar Sultan Raja in Islamabad on Saturday after reviewing the letter of Sindh government sent on Saturday in which it had requested to postpone the scheduled LB elections in Karachi and Hyderabad Divisions for tomorrow (Sunday) while citing the section 34 of the Sindh Local Government Act 2013.

According to the statement after reviewing the above mentioned letter, the commission has decided to hold the second phase of local government elections in Sindh today (Sunday).

In addition, the Election Commission of Pakistan has directed the provincial government to make fool-proof arrangements for the peaceful conduct of local government elections.

Election Commission Secretary Umar Hameed and provincial election commissioner Aijaz Anwer Chohan also attended the huddle via video link.

In a letter to the ECP Saturday, less than 24 hours before the polling, the provincial authorities cited input from the intelligence agencies regarding terror threats and “reiterated the request that the 2nd Phase of local government elections to the extent of Karachi Division and Hyderabad District be postponed till such time that the required security is available at the polling stations.”

This is the second time in as many days the Sindh government has requested to defer the polls to placate Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), which has warned to quit the coalition government if its grievances related to delimitation were not addressed before polls.

The letter stated that the ECP, in its January 13 order, gave “no response to the concerns of the provincial government regarding the non-availability of Pakistan Army and civil armed forces” for the smooth conduct of polls.

It added that a meeting was held at the office of the chief secretary on Friday which was also attended by the ECP secretary as well as senior officers of law enforcement and intelligence agencies.

“In this meeting, the law enforcement and intelligence agencies apprised the participants of the precarious law and order situation along with specific threats to various political leaders and workers of political parties.”

It further added that the meeting further corroborated the fear and apprehension of the government that due to the prevalent situation, there was a greater need for the presence of troops of the Pakistan Army and civil armed forces to be statically deployed at the polling stations.

Meanwhile, in response to the ECP’s request, the Interior Ministry has approved the static deployment of Frontier Constabulary outside at all highly sensitive and sensitive polling stations to ensure the smooth conduct of said elections.

“The exact number of troops, date and area of deployment will be worked out by the Election Commission of Pakistan, Home Department Government of Sindh in consultation with Frontier Constabulary authorities, on the basis of on-ground requirement/assessment,” the letter read.

In line with the Interior Ministry’s approval, as many as 20 Frontier Constabulary (FC) platoons have been provided to the Sindh police to assist in ensuring security during the LG polls in Karachi and Hyderabad, FC Commandant Salahuddin Mehsud said taking to Geo News.

“Over 800 personnel have been given to Sindh as per the federal government’s directives,” Mehsud said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior had on Friday issued a notification authorising the “static deployment of Frontier Constabulary troops outside all highly sensitive and sensitive polling stations on Jan 15 in addition to already approved deployment of other forces”.

“The competent authority, in exercise of the powers conferred under Article 220 of the Constitution, is pleased to authorise static deployment of available sufficient strength of Frontier Constabulary to ensure smooth conduct of said elections.”

It also said the exact number of troops, date and area of deployment will be worked out by the ECP and other stakeholders in consultation with the FC authorities on the basis of on-ground requirements.

Earlier in the day, the ministry had informed the ECP in writing that it had taken up the matter with the MO Dte (military operations directorate) at the GHQ regarding the deployment of troops at polling stations during the local government elections, however, the latter turned down the request.

“In response, MO Dte, GHQ stated that as already intimated given current deployment and very high number of sensitive and most sensitive polling stations, required static deployment and security cover to pulling staff and material as desired by Election Commission of Pakistan is not possible,” the ministry said in the letter.

It added: “It has been further intimated that in view of repeated requests by ECP, it is suggested that ECP may be asked to reevaluate categorization of polling stations and intimate a maximum of upto 500 x polling stations that are considered critical with respect to deployment of Rangers troops on static role.”

The ministry had said “an effort will be made to provide required static deployment of rangers at polling stations in support of police as one-time measure.”