ISLAMABAD: Local government elections in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa are due on April 30 but with a long things-to-do list and disagreements, officials believe that both the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led provincial government and the Election Commission of Pakistan cannot meet the deadline.
Despite persistent pressure from the Supreme Court, none of the provinces, except Balochistan, have any working local government system – a promise all the political parties made in their manifestos before last year’s general elections.
Last week, the apex court asked the Punjab and Sindh governments to submit in writing by March 19 a final date on which the LG polls will be held.
PTI was one of the parties that had promised to devolve powers to local bodies within six months of coming to power – but it has been struggling to keep that promise.
According to ECP officials, the K-P government has sent them copies of their local government laws, relevant rules and the notification of delimitations – the three prerequisites for the polls – on March 10.
ECP is reviewing these documents and is expected to complete its review by March 20.
“But there are certain areas where K-P would have to make further changes in their LG laws and rules. It will need to go to the provincial assembly again,” a senior official at the ECP’s law wing remarked. He did not disclose the clauses that need changes.
Once these prerequisites are fulfilled, it will take ECP at least 45 days to organise the polls.
However, the K-P government has an ambitious demand that is believed to be the main cause of the delay: incorporating the biometrics voter verification system in the polling process.
ECP officials say once a final decision is taken to use digital technology, the process to procure and install biometric machines would take at least three months.
Moreover, the K-P government and the election commission are not on the same page on the use of the biometric system either. ECP wants to use this technology in limited constituencies as a pilot project to test its results. However, PTI insists on using the biometric machines to verify the identity of voters all over the province.
“The local bodies’ elections will not be possible before June or July if we have to use the biometric verification devices,” an official of ECP’s IT department categorically stated.
A separate issue is the cost of buying these biometric machines. An estimated 50,000 polling booths would have to be set up in the province, which would mean that at least 50,000 machines would have to be procured. With a cost of at least Rs30,000 per machine, around Rs1.5 billion would be required to buy these machines.
Moreover, since no company in Pakistan manufactures such devices, the authorities would have to float international tenders. Under the Public Procurement Regulatory Authority (PPRA) rules, once tenders are advertised, companies are given 15 days to submit their bids. Around a week would be required to analyse and decide the successful bidder. Once a contract with a successful bidder is signed, the bidders would take at least two months to get these machines delivered.
But the polls are due in a month-and-a-half.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 17th, 2014.
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