The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced July 30 as the new date for re-polls in 352 polling stations across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
The decision comes two days after Peshawar High Court dismissed 19 petitions challenging the legitimacy of local government re-polls as well as the May 30 elections and directed the polling body to announce re-polls. According to a notification issued by ECP on Sunday, re-polls will be held on those polling stations where allegations of widespread irregularities were reported or the voting process had been suspended on May 30. At least eight stations were excluded by the ECP as high court stays applied there, read the notification.
Read: Judgment announced: PHC dismisses petitions against LG re-polls
Officials privy to the matter told The Express Tribune the provincial government was not satisfied with July 5 as a date for the re-polls as the voter turnout would be low in Ramazan.
“The government had requested ECP to delay the re-polls and conduct them after Ramazan,” an official said. “The new date is satisfactory and would be acceptable to all stakeholders.”
Various political stakeholders in the province have welcomed the new schedule.
Minister for Information Mushtaq Ahmad Ghani thought re-polls after Ramazan was largely suitable. “The previous date was not appropriate,” he told The Express Tribune. “The turnout would not be very high due to the scorching heat. Although we are ready to hold re-polls, it would be in the best interest of voters to conduct the electoral process after Ramazan.”
Ghani added foolproof arrangements will be taken to ensure polling is conducted smoothly.
“The army will be deployed at polling stations and a series of security arrangements will be made,” he said. “During the local government elections on May 30, those who favoured the status quo tried to create chaos during the polls. This time around, mismanagement and rigging will not occur.”
A suitable date
Speaking to The Express Tribune over the telephone, Awami National Party Swabi Chapter President Ameer Rehman said the new date was satisfactory.
“We were ready to hold elections on the previous date as well,” he said. “However, the K-P government failed to conduct free and fair elections on May 30. As a result, ECP has been forced to hold re-polls.”
Read: PHC dismisses petitions against K-P LG re-polls
Rehman accused PTI of exploiting government machinery to alter election results in its favour.
“Re-polling at most of these stations could have been avoided if PTI had acted appropriately,” he said. About the outcome of the re-polls, the ANP leader insisted his party would secure a win in Swabi.
Jamaat-e-Islami Information Secretary Israrullah Advocate said re-polling was a part of the election process and the ECP should be allowed to complete the process. “We had objected to the previous date because of Ramazan,” he said. “The outcomes of the re-polls would be affected if they had been held on July 5. Now, voters and candidates will be in better position to participate.”
Past and present
Local government elections were contested in K-P by 84,420 candidates for 41,762 seats. Voters had the opportunity to cast seven different ballots representing general seat, district, tehsil, women, minorities, youth and labourer seat candidates. However, the elections opened a floodgate of rigging allegations.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 13th, 2015.
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