ISLAMABAD – The chief election commissioner on Thursday reiterated that elections will be held on time, after he was assured by the finance minister that remaining funds will be released to the commission for conduct of polls.

CEC Fakhruddin G Ebrahim met Finance Minister Saleem Mandviwala in Islamabad and discussed the issue of funds needed by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for the upcoming elections. The ECP has so far received Rs2 billion out of the required Rs6 billion.

Talking to the media after the meeting, Justice (r) Fakhruddin said the meeting with Mandviwala was positive and fruitful as the minister has assured him that funds would be released soon.

The CEC brushed off all the concerns about whether the elections would be held or not given the prevailing situation in the country, and he expressed his resolve to hold the polls on time.

Optimistic Fakhru Bhai said that law and order situation in Karachi would not create any hurdle in the way of elections for which “all the arrangements have been made”. He hoped the situation in Karachi would improve before holding of elections.

In a follow-up meeting, ECP Secretary Ishtiak Ahmed Khan called on the finance minister regarding the provision of remaining four billion rupees for the printing of ballot papers and other arrangements for the general elections. Mandviwala assured him that the due amount would be released soon.

In another development, the election commission has dismissed Safdar Abbasi’s petition challenging Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians (PPPP) intra-party elections. According to the sources, the ECP is of the view that it has no right to scrutinise intra-party polls and high court was the relevant forum to challenge the polls.

Safdar Abbasi, a former Senator, had accessed the ECP requesting it not to issue any election symbol to the PPPP for contesting the next general elections, claiming that its intra-party elections were farcical, a mala fide exercise on papers only and short of statutory requirement of the Political Parties Order 2002.

On the other hand, the election commission on Thursday came under fire from the opposition Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl after the party was denied electoral symbol of its choice. In January this year, the ECP allotted ‘Open Book’ as electoral symbol to the JUI-F replacing the previous symbol of ‘Closed Book’ considering that some JUI-F candidates were misusing the Closed Book symbol by likening it to the Holy Quran.

However, the allotment of Open Book symbol did not go well with the JUI-F with its chief having publicly urged the electoral body to review its decision and allot JUI-F its previous symbol, the Closed Book. The JUI-F later formally asked the commission to reconsider its decision and party leader Abdul Ghafoor Haideri appeared before the commission on Thursday in pursuance of the symbol request, be he was told that the commission would not review its decision.

The irate JUI-F secretary general later alleged the commission of being biased. “This is injustice. Many political parties have been allotted the symbols of their choice, why not us, then? We had Closed Book as an electoral symbol in past, why we can’t have it now,” Haideri remarked while talking to journalists.

“Earlier, they (ECP officials) had told me that our request would be reviewed but today I was shocked to learn from them that they decided otherwise. We reject this decision that’s based on mala fide intentions. The foundation of the ECP’s electoral exercise is based on deception and hoodwinking. If this is the beginning, imagine what would be the end!”

Requesting anonymity, a senior ECP official told this scribe that the JUI-F had requested for the allotment of Closed Book symbol on the basis of Preferential Rights – the right to be allotted the same symbol as previously allotted. The JUI-F, the official said, was told that the Closed Book symbol had been abolished and replaced with the Open Book on account of controversies attached.

 “How can we allot a symbol that doesn’t exist anymore?” the official commented.