The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced on Tuesday that the local government elections in Karachi and Hyderabad divisions will be held on January 15, 2023.
A five-member bench headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja issued a detailed judgment and ordered the secretary interior and Sindh inspector general (IG) to make security arrangements for the elections. The electoral watchdog had earlier reserved its verdict on the plea on November 15.
The ECP's verdict comes four days after the Sindh High Court (SHC) directed it to announce the date for local government elections in the two cities within 15 days, and to complete the election process within two months.
The polls, originally scheduled for July 24, have been postponed thrice since due to the Sindh government’s repeated requests that the required police officials were busy with flood relief operations.
In the detailed ruling, a copy of which is available with The Express Tribune, the ECP ordered the Sindh government, chief secretary, and inspector general to provide a sufficient number of security personnel for election duty at the polling stations, offices of district returning officers, returning officers (RO), polling staff, and transportation of polling material to and from the offices of the ROs.
“Further Federal Government through the secretary ministry of interior is directed to provide sufficient number of security personnel from other law enforcement agencies, in accordance with the security plan for the conduct of local government elections in Karachi and Hyderabad divisions, in a peaceful manner.
The office is directed to take further necessary action accordingly," the ECP directed.
The judgement said that it was a constitutional obligation of the commission to organise and conduct elections in accordance with the constitution and law which entrust it with exclusive, broad and extensive powers to fulfil its constitutional responsibilities.
“The Supreme Court has also held in a number of judgements that the election commission is bound by the constitution and law to ensure timely conduct of elections. At the same time, it is the constitutional responsibility of the provincial governments to ensure the establishment of local government system in terms of Article 140(A)(1) of the Constitution,” the ECP said in the judgement as it cited a top court’s ruling in the matter.
It noted that from the perusal of the record, the commission has done all possible efforts to conduct local government elections in Sindh but regretted that the provincial government has each time acted in a manner to delay the polls on one pretext or the other.
It cited the Supreme Court’s ruling in the cases of president Balochistan High Court Bar Association and Raja Rab Nawaz wherein the apex court held that after the 18th amendment the ECP is charged with holding local government elections in terms of Article 140(A) read with Article 219(d) of the Constitution.
“The apex court further held that the provinces may have the power to legislate but if there is no legislation or if there is defective legislation, the ECP is not absolved from performing its duties under the constitution,” it added.
Last week, the chief election commissioner had said that the election commission wanted to hold local body polls in Karachi at the earliest, however, the election commission had reserved its decision in this regard.
The election commission under article 220 can issue direct orders to hold polls but soon an appropriate decision will be announced. He suggested deploying personnel from Punjab for polls.
JI's Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rehman, Waseem Akhtar of MQM, Administrator Karachi and PPP leader Murtaza Wahab and IG Sindh were present at the ECP on the occasion.
On November 18, the ECP decided to put off local government elections in Karachi for a third time on Sindh’s request while it asked the Punjab government to legislate on the local bodies within a week or hold the polls based on the previous laws.
The decision to postpone local body elections in Karachi was made in a meeting chaired by Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja.
The huddle reviewed the interior ministry's letter in which it had expressed its inability to provide security personnel for the local government elections.
The federal government had also asked the electoral body to decide about conducting local government elections in the port city after consulting with the Sindh government.
The meeting was attended by the police chief and chief secretary of Sindh and other relevant officials.
Sindh had sought postponement of the LG polls for three months in seven districts of Karachi, scheduled to take place on October 23.
The second phase of the LG elections in Sindh was originally scheduled to take place on July 24.
However, it was put off twice due to unprecedented rains and the subsequent flooding.
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