In an attempt to avert a possible contempt of court, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has passed on the burden of making arrangements for the upcoming local bodies’ elections on the governments of Sindh and Punjab.
On Wednesday, the commission issued LG election schedule for the two provinces according to which the polls will be held in Sindh on November 27, and in Punjab on December 7 – the dates given by the Supreme Court for this purpose.
The commission is said to have played tactfully by throwing the balls into the court of provincial governments and other relevant organisations.
The ECP said that the provincial governments would have to ensure the printing of millions of ballot papers. They will then reconcile the electoral lists within the stipulated timeframe in accordance with the delimitations they have carried out for the LG elections.
“We will implement the Supreme Court orders. The establishment secretary has been asked to coordinate with the provinces over the printing of ballot papers,” ECP Secretary Ishtiaq Ahmed Khan said.
However, no one in the ECP was ready to share with the media how all this would be made possible. ECP officials evaded queries about technical aspects of their decision.
“We have asked the Pakistan Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR) to provide magnetised ink,” the ECP secretary said. It is not clear how the PCSIR will provide over two million stamp pads with magnetised ink when it had made it clear to the ECP that it cannot manufacture more than 0.5 million pads in a month and that too if their organisation works in double shifts.
The ECP secretary said that the establishment secretary has been called on Thursday (today) to apprise the commission of all options the government can use to get the required 400 million ballot papers printed.
Legal and technical hurdles
Under the law, the ECP cannot issue schedule till delimitations are notified. Punjab had promised to notify delimitations on November 7, while Sindh said it would do so on November 13. Many people have raised objections against the proposed delimitations; these objections are yet to be heard by relevant authorities.
Similarly it is the responsibility of the election authorities to reconcile the electoral lists, which have to be published for public scrutiny and objections. However, not only the provincial administration will be involved for this purpose, but there will be no time for public objections.
There will be six different categories of contestants in Punjab for the upcoming polls. Ballot papers in different colours and on a specific ‘non market’ paper should be published for all these categories to avoid chances of fake balloting. It is likely that provincial authorities would have to involve not only all their printing machinery but also private printing houses to print ballot papers that will compromise secrecy.
Sindh LG polls schedule
Nomination forms will be issued on November 9, candidates would have to submit them on November 11-12. Objections could be filed the next day. ROs will conduct scrutiny on November 16-17. Appeals against acceptance or rejection of nomination papers could be filed on November 18-19, which will be decided over the next two days. The final list of contestants along with their election symbols will be published on November 23 while polling will be held on November 27.
Punjab LG polls schedule
Nomination papers for December 7 LG polls in Punjab will be issued from November 9, who will file them on November 11-12. During the next two days the list of candidates will be published and objections against them could be filed. The ROs will conduct scrutiny of nomination papers on November 16-18. Appeals would be filed on November 19-20, which will be heard from November 21 to November 23. Final list of contestants will be displayed along with their election symbols on November 25.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 7th, 2013.