As the second phase of Local Government (LG) polls come to a close across Punjab and Sindh the Election Commission of Pakistan finds itself in another crisis. On Wednesday it postponed local bodies’ polls for 81 union councils of Sindh, scheduled to be held on Thursday, in the light of directives of Supreme Court. The Supreme Court interceded on behalf of the government’s appeal challenging the earlier decision of the Sindh High Court which ordered the ECP to demarcate constituency delimitations once more, believing that the provincial government carried out the process incorrectly. The end result is as confusing and damaging as expected- polls canceled a day before they were due, new delimitations hastily created by the provinces instead of the ECP, and most importantly, the loss of confidence in the electoral process.

While it is tempting – and relatively easy – to lay the blame on the ECP’s doorstep, the real situation is far more complex. The players are numerous and all parties, from the apex court to the government share some part of the blame in the postponement of the LG polls. The Supreme Court gave a last gasp verdict, the Sindh High Court gave a flawed verdict requiring challenge and the provincial government carried out delimitations unsatisfactorily. In the middle of this all is the ECP, being shunted around by outside forces and sorely lacking in competence.

Imran’s Khan’s calls for the heads of the provincial in charge of the ECP was extreme a few months ago, but in the light of the debacles in by-elections and the LG polls, some sort of accountability is crucial.

A last minute postponement undermines months of campaigning by local aspirants, while filling the heads of the less informed ones with conspiracy theories. Unfortunately Pakistan People’s Party leader and Chief Minister Sindh, Qaim Ali Shah is one of them. Instead of reaffirming the people’s faith in the democratic process and explaining the reason for the delay he has gone on record to say that the delay seems like a “conspiracy” designed to disenfranchise the people of Sindh. This coming from the Chief Minister, who is – or should be – aware of all the facts of the issue is downright irresponsible and malicious. His provincial government took ages to delimit constituencies, his government appealed against the SHC verdict and Qaim Ali Shah has the audacity to say the delay is caused by ‘opponents’ and ‘conspiracies’ If the ECP’s actions merit accountability then so do Qaim Ali Shah’s.