ISLAMABAD - The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Friday formally launched the preparations for the local government elections with the cancellation of weekly holidays of the entire electoral machinery deputed across the country and upcoming announcement of the LG polls schedule for the three provinces, in pursuance of a court order.

“In addition, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has unofficially prescribed the tentative date of December 28 for the ECP to hold LG elections,” credible ECP insiders said.

The commission has cancelled, with immediate effect, the weekly holidays of all of its officials from top management to lower cadre in connection with the preparations for LG polls. The poll authority is to ask the provinces to review their prescribed dates for LG elections in order to get sufficient time for the polls preparations. 

These decisions were taken in a high-level emergency meeting held Friday soon after the Supreme Court ordered the electoral body to make arrangements for the conduct of LG polls on the dates prescribes by the three provinces, Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan.

Secretary ECP Ishtiak Ahmad Khan chaired the meeting, which was also attended by the senior electoral officials from the ECP Secretariat and all the four provinces up to the ranks of additional secretary, director generals, additional director generals and directors.

To chalk out the specifications on the LG polls, the ECP is to hold two top-level meetings respectively on Monday and Tuesday, both to be chaired by Acting Chief Election Commissioner Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani.

The Monday meeting would be an internal meet-up to be attended by the four members election commission (MECs), secretary ECP, provincial election commissioners (PECs) and senior staff at the ECP Secretariat whereas the ECP would finalise the modalities for LG in consultation with the government departments, the next day. Secretary interior, chairman PSCIR (Pakistan Council for Scientific and Industrial Research), chairman NADRA (National Database and Registration Authority), secretary Population Census Organisations (PCO), director general Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD), chief commissioner Islamabad and the four provincial chief secretaries and LG secretaries are to show up for the Tuesday meeting.

This meet-up was earlier scheduled on October 22 but was put off by the ECP reportedly due to top-level administrative reshuffle in Punjab’s bureaucracy, pending legislation on LG polls in KP and hearing of the LG polls delay case in SC.

Moreover, the ECP on Friday decided to take up with the provinces the issue of respective polling dates for the LG polls. Sindh has formally requested the ECP to hold by polls on November 27 whereas Punjab and Balochistan have prescribed the date of December 7 for LG polls.

 Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, which is yet to pass the LG laws, has unofficially communicated to the ECP to hold LG elections on December 28, the ECP officials informed.

The commission, the electoral insiders said, requires at least two months to hold the LG polls. “The conduct of LG polls in haste without making proper preparations would be a messy affair that might lead to mismanagement and haphazard arrangements,” one of the top ECP officials, requesting anonymity, commented.

“This is why the commission had earlier indicated the LG polls were not possible this year,” the official referred to the ECP meeting on October 3, which followed an implied announcement from the secretary ECP in a related media briefing to hint that the conduct of LG polls this year was unlikely.

“We will try to convince the provinces to review the dates for LG polls considering the extensive electoral preparations but if they don’t agree, we’ll left with no other option but to follow the SC orders. Keeping this in view, the weekly holidays of the entire ECP staff have been cancelled till LG polls are held,” he added.

The printing of 600 million ballot papers for LG elections and their subsequent transportation across the country require at least four weeks and as much time was needed for other arrangements, the official informed.

PUNJAB GOVT’S COUNTER

ARGUMENTS SOUGHT ON

NON-PARTY LG POLLS

Staff Reporter from Lahore adds: The Lahore High Court on Friday directed the Punjab government to come up with advance counter arguments after the petitioners’ counsels concluded their arguments on set of petitions against non-party polls in the province under new Local Government Law, 2013.

A LHC division bench was hearing the case and adjourned further proceedings till October 28.

As the proceedings started, the petitioner’s counsel collectively took plea that such polls would weaken the foundation of political parties in the province, and it would be against national interest.

 They said the English ear laws are still being practised in the country; whereas, the Constitution allowed the courts to have judicial reviews. They requested the court to order the Punjab government to conduct the polls on party basis.

The counsels further said Punjab Local Government Law 2013 was in sheer violation of several provisions of the Constitution and needed to be amended suitably. They said the local government system is the foundation of all democratic principles and the structure of democracy is based on this foundation.  The PPP and PTI lawyers’ foundation had challenged the non-party polls in Punjab under the new local government law.