Rivals unite to extend Sindh LG polls date

election of pakistanThe incomplete process of delimitation in Sindh and unavailability of nomination forms at the offices of the DROs and ROs in the districts have lend credibility to the claims that holding of local government (LG) elections in haste would compromise the fairness of the process and the results.

As in the national parliament, the government and opposition parties in Sindh Assembly are united in demanding postponement of Nov 27 polls for filling seats of the third-tier of government. A session of the provincial legislature has been summoned today (Monday) to adopt a unanimous resolution in this regard. The Supreme Court is also set to take up today an appeal of Sindh government for extending the date of polls for ten days, from 27th of this month to 7th of next month. With the unveiling of LG polls schedule, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had also put a ban on the transfer and posting of the Sindh government officials, and the government delayed issuing of notification of DROs and ROs for the elections because, according to sources, it was compiling the list of officers of its choice for election duty in the districts.

The opposition parties also levelled same allegation against the government, terming it pre-poll rigging. The ECP Sindh Office however finally issued notification on Sunday, declaring deputy commissioners and assistant commissioners as DROs and ROs in the province, but the nomination forms for the members, chairmen, vice chairmen, mayors and vice mayors could not be available at the offices on second day of the receiving of the papers on Sunday and the hopefuls returned without getting the papers. The political leaders from different parties visited the office of the provincial election commission on Sunday to seek information about the availability of the nomination forms.

The commission officers advised them to visit the offices of DROs and ROs concerned as the nominations forms have been dispatched to them. When contacted, Sindh Parliamentary Affairs Minister Dr Sikandar Mandhro told The Nation that lot of confusion persisted on part of the ECP as he said the commission has issued the polls schedule in haste. Citing legal loopholes in the process, he said the delimitation of the constituencies by the government too was under process and objections and appeals on the delimitation issues were yet to be heard and decided by appellate tribunals/commissioners.

“The announcement of schedule of the local government polls without completion of the delimitation process may lead to legal complications as the legal questions could arise on the authenticity and status of delimitation process in the province,” Sikandar said, adding that lots more problems could arise if the polls are held in haste. He recalled that ECP had earlier argued that at least 85 days required for holding of polls after conveying of the date by provincial government concerned. The minister termed the lack of availability of the nomination forms and issuance of notification of the ROs and DROs as shortcomings and incomplete homework on part of the ECP.

“How it could be possible to print and transport over 40 million ballot papers at polling stations of the whole province within one day after announcement of final list of candidates on November 25,” he raised the question. PPP leader and provincial minister for information and local government Sharjeel Inam Memon said that if local bodies’ elections were held on November 27, they could suffer a gross mismanagement. He said the candidates should have been given sufficient time for running their campaigns. Sindh government’s mouthpiece said the ECP does not know about the voter lists and new delimitations as the delimitation process is still underway.

The MQM, PML-F, PML-N and PTI from the opposition benches have also extended their support to the stance of the provincial government to extend the date of the local government polls. PML-F leader Jam Madad Ali has said that without delimitation process the authenticity of the election process has no legal validity. He said even announcement of the election schedule before the completion of delimitation process was a mistake, which should be rectified. He appealed to the Chief Justice of Pakistan to extend the polls date by 15 days. -Nation