ECP submits third revised LG polls schedule to SC

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The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Thursday evening submitted before the Supreme Court the third revised schedule for holding of local government elections in Punjab and Sindh.

The three-member bench of the apex court headed by Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja comprising Justice Sarmad Jalal Osmany and Justice Maqbool Baqar resumed hearing of two different petitions for holding of LG polls in three provinces and in cantonment areas of the country.

Earlier in the day, the court adjourned hearing thrice and expressed annoyance on delaying tactics used by the ECP.

The court also rejected the LG polls schedule for Punjab and Sindh and directed the commission to submit it again at 4:30pm Thursday.

The court directed the ECP to conduct elections in 43 cantonment areas on April 25 and also directed to register approximately 0.25 million new voters in the electoral rolls. The court also directed the ECP to hold municipal elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on May 30 instead of June 7.

During the proceedings, Attorney General Salman Aslam Butt submitted the revised schedule for local body elections and said the commission was ready to conduct LG polls in Punjab and Sindh in three phases. He said elections in Punjab will be held district-wise in three phases, whereby elections in 12 districts will be held in each phase. He further said that division-wise polls will also be held in Sindh.

The first phase of these polls will be held on September 20, the second on November 4, and the third on December 9, this year.

ECP Director General Abdur Rehman failed to satisfy the court over questions regarding LG elections in three phases in the two provinces.

The court observed that not only had the ECP failed to complete its responsibility of holding LG polls, but also failed to fulfill its constitutional obligations. “Devolution of power to the grassroots is a fundamental right of the masses,” the bench remarked.

On a court query regarding election in different phases, ECP Deputy Director Irfan Kausar said the commission had to print 400 million ballot papers for polls in Punjab and Sindh, adding that the Printing Corporation of Pakistan (PCP) was not equipped to print the number of ballot papers in such a short span of time.

To this, Justice Sarmad Jalal said it seemed that the ECP did not want to transfer power and authority to the grassroots, adding that the commission was adopting outdated methods for printing.

Justice Jawwad said the election commission will have to conduct polls on dates given by the court. “It is unfortunate that instead of ECP acting as an independent organization, it appears to be working under the government,” he said.

The hearing was then adjourned till Friday.