‘LG polls in Sindh, Punjab may be delayed beyond 2015’

Voters stand in queue to cast their votes outside a polling station <br/>during Balochistan Local Bodies Election.  — PPT/file

ISLAMABAD: A lack of political will may delay local government (LG) elections in Sindh and Punjab beyond 2015, a senior official of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said on Tuesday.

Briefing reporters after an ECP meeting with local government secretaries from Sindh and Punjab, the commission’s acting Secretary Usman Ali said the ECP, for its part, was ready to hold elections at the lowest tier during the next calendar year. “But it will require very strong political will to make this a reality,” he remarked.

The meeting was also attended by Zafar Iqbal Hussain, ECP’s director general for LG elections, as well as senior representatives of the provincial election commissions of Sindh and Punjab.

ECP official blames lack of political will on part of provincial govts for delay

He said the ECP secretariat was already doing its homework and had prepared draft delimitation rules for Sindh and Punjab, which would shortly be placed before the commission for approval.

He said future rules would also apply to other provinces and the federal capital and ECP staff was currently being trained in the procedures of delimitation.

He said the ECP had written to the Punjab government on October 20, asking them to provide material necessary for fresh delimitation, including maps, notifications, and details of boundaries and wards. A reminder was also sent on Nov 13, but the details are yet to be received, he said. At the meeting, however, the Punjab LG secretary promised to provide these details to the ECP within the next fortnight.

Mr Ali said that Sindh had also been asked to provide similar materials, but the province had sought an additional month to comply with the request. Sindh officials had also been informed of certain anomalies in their LG rules.

The Sindh LG secretary has asked ECP officials to give them a list of the anomalies that need correcting and has promised to ensure that the rules concur with the law, within a month. ECP, Mr Ali said, would send the necessary details to the Sindh government in a couple of days.

He also announced that the schedule for delimitation in Sindh and Punjab will be issued in couple of months, adding that the exercise was likely to be completed by June 2015.

Answering a question, he said the ECP was ready to hold LG polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) in April 2015 without the provision for biometric verification of voters, but the provincial government was now asking for these machines to ascertain voter identity in Peshawar district, adding that this would delay the polls.

Another ECP official told Dawn that 100 million ballot papers were to be printed ahead of the LG polls in KP, which would take at least two months.

He also revealed that the LG polls in Sindh would require 110 million ballot papers and Punjab 310 million ballot papers to carry out the exercise.

He said LG polls in Punjab and Sindh were possible by October-November 2015 at the earliest if everything went smoothly. If the provincial governments drag their feet, however, another few months would be wasted, delaying the polls beyond 2015.

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