ISLAMABAD - The violence, mayhem and irregularities witnessed during local bodies (LB) polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have triggered blame game between ruling Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) and Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

While PTI chief Imran Khan has put the onus of mismanagement in the polls on election authorities, the ECP on Monday issued a strongly worded statement laughing out at the accusation of Mr Khan.

In its statement the ECP reminded its critic that maintaining law and order situation was the sole responsibility of provincial government for which the commission had already advised KP government to hold the elections in phases to minimise expected violence and unrest on the polling day.

The PTI-led KP government has been under pressure from all political quarters for failing to provide protection to voters that resulted in death of 11 people and injuries to scores others.

“It is clarified that maintenance of law and order during the elections is the sole responsibility of provincial government. The ECP arranged additional force through the Interior Division and the GHQ for beefing up security in the province. In nutshell, elections are a joint exercise during which no organisation can absolve itself of its responsibility,” the ECP statement said.

During a news conference on Sunday, PTI Chairman Imran Khan had accused ECP of being responsible for mismanaging polls in KP demanding officers of Provincial Election Commission (PEC) to tender resignation for showing ill-performance.

But ECP on Monday argued that it had already advised the provincial government for conducting the polls in phases as was done in 2001 and 2005 LG elections. “But the KP government insisted to hold elections on one (single) day. Our advice to KP government and the refusal is part of record,” the ECP added.

“The incidents of violence and mismanagement could have been avoided if the polls were held in phases,” the ECP observed. “The Election Commission of Pakistan, however, is determined to take punitive measures wherever and whoever has violated the law,” the ECP statement asserted.

Earlier, on Monday morning, senior officers of ECP discussed LB polls in the province that were marked by deadly violence, irregularities and violation of the code of conduct, and they passed the buck to provincial government for failing to maintain order inside and outside the polling stations.

A senior ECP officer told The Nation that the statement of KP Chief Minister Pervez Khattak that the commission was responsible for everything during the polls was immature as it questioned the basic understanding of administrative affairs of the provincial chief executive.

“It is crystal clear that law and order is provincial subject. Then how can the chief minister blame ECP for a job that does not fall in our jurisdiction of duties? Should we ask him to resign now after ECP defined which department is responsible for what?“ a senior ECP official told this reporter.

The polls according to independent election observers including FAFEN were marred by violence and irregularities and they held both election authorities and KP government responsible for the mess. ECP officials fear that the chances of re-polling in various union councils were imminent keeping in view the gross irregularities including snatching of ballot boxes from polling stations and burning of ballot papers in some areas.

On the other hand, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and other political leaders also raised eye brows over the move of KP authorities of arresting ANP senior leader Mian Iftikhar Hussain in Nowshera Saturday after a PTI worker was killed due to an aerial firing.

The ANP leader was arrested by police for being responsible for the murder of PTI worker, a charge he and other several political leaders termed as political victimisation although Imran Khan said KP government had no role in his arrest. But on Monday KP Inspector General Police Nasir Durrani told a private television channel that the ANP leader was arrested by police to protect him from the mob gathered outside his residence.

Revote ordered in

26 polling stations

Staff Reporter from Peshawar adds: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Election Commission revoked elections on 26 polling stations of Peshawar and announced re-polling where genuine complaints have been received.

The District Returning Officer presented detail report to Chief Secretary Khyber

Pakhtunkhwa narrating that the electoral process was marred with mismanagement, indiscipline and violence.

The reports said that polling staff reached polling stations very late with insufficient election material and lack of competent staff.

Even those who were dead and retired from services were assigned the duties. Fake ballot papers and stamps were used in some areas while seal of ballot boxes were also broken during polling process.  

Due to lack of security arrangements, the voters scuffled and used weapons against each other despite the presence of police.

The areas where the Election Commission has ordered re-polling include Kakshal, Bhanamari, Hazar Khwani, Ghala Godam, Urmar Fayan and Masho Khail.