The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday postponed the by-elections in 13 constituencies of Sindh, Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) in view of the destruction caused by flash floods and the non-availability of law enforcement agencies (LEAs) for holding peaceful polls.
A meeting chaired by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja was held on Thursday. Following the meeting, the electoral watchdog issued a statement, wherein it made it clear that only the polling dates were being postponed and the rest of the phases would be completed as per schedule. It added that the new dates would be announced when the situation in flood-devastated areas improves and the LEAs are available for providing security.
Press Release regarding upcoming bye Elections #ECP pic.twitter.com/GlzCnJELQP— Election Commission of Pakistan (OFFICIAL) (@ECP_Pakistan) September 8, 2022
The electoral body explained that it was not possible for them to hold the polls on the prescribed dates because of the devastation and displacement caused by floods and the engagement of all agencies in relief operations, besides transportation issues and the incidents of terrorism in K-P.
It said that conducting peaceful polls was its responsibility and the availability of the Pakistan Army, Rangers and Frontier Corps (FC) was necessary to maintain law and order. It, therefore, added that the decision was taken in the public interest.
In the feedback given by the Ministry of Interior to ECP, it was stated that the security agencies were engaged in flood relief operations, monitoring internal security and preventing terrorist activities in the country.
The ECP said that the military authorities also referred to the national emergency and cited their engagement in relief operations. The military authorities said that the absence of LEAs would not be suitable for holding peaceful elections.
In the meeting, the provincial election commissioners of Sindh, K-P and Punjab also said that it was impossible to hold the polls in the current circumstances as the victims of floods were kept in various government buildings. They added that relief operations were also being conducted from government buildings.
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The ECP secretary also said that all national agencies, including police, army, rangers and FC, who were deployed on election duty were “extremely busy” in carrying out relief operations and assisting the resettlement of flood victims.
The secretary said that on August 23, the ECP had requested the services of LEAs through the Ministry of Interior, but due to the national emergency, no assurance of their deployment was given. He also pointed out that the law and order situation was tense in K-P where, in recent days, attacks on LEAs led to casualties.
ECP had announced by-polls on September 11 and 25, and on October 2. Polling was scheduled to be held on NA-157 Multan on September 11; PP-139 Sheikhupra on September 11, PP-241 Bahawalnagar on September 11; NA-22 Mardan on September 25; NA-24 Charsadda on September 25; NA-31 Peshawar on September 25; NA-45 Kurram on September 25; NA 108 Faisalabad on September 25; NA-118 Nankana Sahib on September 25; NA-237 Malir on September 25; NA-239 Korangi on September 25; NA-246 Karachi I on September 25; and PP-209 Khanewal on October 2.
PTI to challenge decision
Meanwhile, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) has decided to challenge the ECP’s decision. Party’s Vice Chairman Shah Mahmood Qureshi held a telephonic conversation with fellow party leader Dr Babar Awan, following which the latter issued a video statement, announcing the party’s position.
He pointed out that neither is there any emergency in Multan nor has it been declared disaster-struck. Commenting on the legal proceedings against party chief Imran Khan, he said that the charge sheet has not been filed yet, and will be filed on September 22.
He also said that his position is the same as those of judicial assistants, adding that “the law of contempt of court has ended in the world”.
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