ISLAMABAD - Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is set to pay one billion rupees to the Printing Corporation of Pakistan (PCP) for procurement of paper required to print ballot papers for the upcoming local government elections in the provinces, federal capital and cantonment boards (CBs).

The procured-to-be paper would be distributed among nine state-owned printing houses including those run by the defence establishments like Survey of Pakistan, National Logistics Cell (NLC) and some government universities and Pakistan Security Printing Corporation (PSPC). “We have given prior approval for the release of funds required to procure the paper and print the ballot papers in order to ensure unhindered and smooth printing,” Secretary ECP Ishtiak Ahmad Khan confirmed to this correspondent. The allocated funds cover the paper procurement and ballot papers printing charges, he added. Additional funds would be released, if required, depending upon the extent of expenditure incurred on this count, the secretary said.

Earlier Saturday, the secretary ECP chaired a meeting attended by the heads of the nine state-run printing presses to grant formal approval for the upcoming release of the one billion rupees. The approved funds would expectedly be released in December’s first week.

“We are going to engage Pakistan Army not only for the provision of security in and outside the highly sensitive and sensitive polling stations but for the secure printing and subsequent transportation of the ballot papers to their respective destinations,” the secretary ECP said.

In the Saturday meeting, the ECP and the printing houses decided to go by the already taken decision of printing 520 million ballot papers phase-wise, considering the LG polls dates in the respective provinces. The scheduled printing of around a million ballot papers for Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) is part of the 300 ballot papers to be printed for Punjab. The printing of seven to eight million ballot papers for Balochistan is presently under way at the PCP, to be expectedly completed by December 3. The LG polls in the province are scheduled on the coming December 7. For Sindh, where LG polls are scheduled on January 18 next year, the printing exercise for approximately 130 million ballot papers would start shortly after the issuance of LG elections schedule for Sindh and Punjab, on November 29. Subsequently, the printing process for 300 million ballot papers for Punjab would be completed considering its LG polls date of January 30 while Khyber Pakhtunkhwas’ 80 million ballot papers and those of CBs (number unspecified as yet) would be printed at a later stage once their LG polls dates were finalised (tentative LG polls timeline falls in February). 

The ECP on Tuesday had decided in a top-level meeting on LG polls to go for phase-wise printing of ballot papers after the PCP and Pakistan Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (PCSIR) had suggested February 19 date to the ECP for LG polls in Punjab and Sindh. The PCP said it needed a month to print 430 million ballot papers for the two provinces whereas PCSIR said the preparation of 2.2 million stamp pads and magnetic ink also required at least 30 days. After consultations, the ECP and PCP decided that ballot papers would be printed on preferential bases considering LG polls dates in the provinces. On the basis of same principle, the PCSIR would prepare a specific ink (not magnetic ink) and stamp pads for LG polls. According to ECP, engaging nine government printing presses would make possible the printing of up to 120 million ballot papers in a day, which implies that the printing process (when collectively carried out by all the designated printing houses) would require one to three days for printing the ballot papers for each province and CBs.

The military’s vehicles including jeeps, trucks and vans and aircraft including Mi-17 helicopters and C-130 planes are to be used for road and aerial transportation of ballot papers. The ballot papers for every province, ICT and CBs would be of different colours, to be printed in both English and Urdu languages.