ISLAMABAD - Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan, Ishtiak Ahmed Khan, has hoped that concerns of Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) regarding constituencies’ delimitation in Karachi would be addressed in tomorrow’s (Thursday) meeting and the appointment of new provincial election commissioner in Sindh would be made soon.

He was responding to TheNations’ queries on certain electoral issues, when approached on Tuesday. “We hope that the reservations of MQM would be addressed,” the secretary said while commenting on the consultative meeting between the ECP and political parties scheduled tomorrow to discuss the delimitation drive in Karachi.

“It’s a complex issue, a complicated one. But we’ll try to remove the concerns of the MQM vis-à-vis constituencies delimitation in Karachi,” he said.

Last week, the ECP had called a consultative meeting with the political parties, to be held on the coming December 20, to take the latter onboard regarding constituencies delimitation in Karachi. All the political parties except MQM support the delimitation drive ordered by the Supreme Court.

“Hopefully, tomorrow’s meeting would make a headway towards removing misgivings,” the secretary ECP added.

He said, the vacant slot of Sindh’s provincial election commission commissioner would be filled in, in the days to come while no particular name has been finalised as yet. “The matter is under consideration.”

The election commission had notified on Monday the transfer of PEC Sindh Sonu Khan Baloch, posted out as Director General (Budget) in the ECP headquarters.

The move is seemingly linked to the reservations shown by Pakistan Muslim League- Nawaz, Jamat-e-Islami and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf  against Baloch’s presence in Sindh as the ECP’s provincial head, reportedly due to his close association with some ruling bigwigs in Sindh and federal governments. Reports about Baloch’s transfer were doing rounds for the last few days.

The secretary ECP, when asked, expressed inability to comment on the reasons for Sonu Khan’s removal from the provincial headquarters. “I can’t say anything in this regard. Yes, media reports have been surfacing lately about his removal and I think media has better information on this issue than me.” 

Requesting anonymity, an ECP official said, the election commission needs the political parties support in the wake of hostile reaction from MQM on delimitation issue. “It could get really problematic if PTI, JI and PML-N also adopt a hostile attitude like MQM if their concerns on an administratively solvable issue are not addressed. Given the scenario, its important to appease the political parties that have reservations about PEC Sindh. We’re landing in Karachi for delimitation despite MQM’s opposition. And developing hostility with political parties on an administrative issue is simply unaffordable at this point considering that we may face hard times in Karachi,” he said referring to the fallout against upcoming delimitation drive from the MQM supporters. “This is why consultation meeting with political parties has been called,” the official said. The MQM perceives the SC-ordered constituencies delimitation in Karachi as a bid to ‘deprive’ the party of its vote bank. The MQM Chief Altaf Hussain faces contempt proceedings for criticising the SC judges on delimitation issue. 

Last Thursday, following a top-level meeting, the ECP had decided to engage military and Frontier Corps (FC) for the provision of security during voters’ verification in Karachi, in pursuance of SC decision. The next day, the secretary ECP sent letters to the secretary defence and interior for the provision of army and FC troops.

The Secretary ECP Ishtiak Ahmed Khan said that follow-up requests would be sent to the military officials concerned by the ECP provincial headquarters in Sindh and Balochistan. “I have already sent letters to the defence and interior secretaries. Now our Provincial Election Commissions in the two provinces would respectively contact the Karachi Corps and FC headquarters in the two provinces,” he told this journalist.

Sixty-two electoral constituencies including 42 Sindh Assembly and 20 National Assembly constituencies are to be demarcated in Karachi. To be launched during next month’s start, the voters’ verification and constituencies delimitation drive would continue simultaneously, that would expectedly take around or over two months.

 Moreover, The ECP would engage 18,000 personnel to verify over 8.6 million voters in Pakistan’s largest city. The commission reportedly needs one security man each for providing security to every ECP official involved in the voters’ verification.