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ISLAMABAD: Amidst stalled progress on holding local government elections in all the four provinces and federal capital, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Wednesday once again reiterated that holding ‘timely’ LG polls was its constitutional responsibility and it would ensure the timely conduct of these polls.

In a top-level meeting presided over by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, the ECP reviewed LG polls scenario in the four provinces, Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) and cantonment boards.

However, no significant progress regarding LG polls was made and the ECP largely reverted to its previous decisions—to ask the provinces and federal government to fulfil their requirements so as to enable the commission to hold LG polls.

All the four provinces had previously opposed the ECP’s constituencies delimitation exercise for LG polls on the provisional results of population census 2017 and refused to accept the delimitation results unless population census results were officially notified.

Recently, the Council of Common Interests (CCI) finally approved the results of the population census 2017.

Still, the conduct of LG elections in near future seems uncertain in the backdrop of widespread devastation unleashed by Covid-19 across Pakistan with federal and provincial governments mulling over the option to go for a complete shutdown in different areas of the country where number of Covid cases and mortality rate are alarmingly high.

In January this year, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments had suggested to ECP to hold LG polls in September this year— that seems difficult now.

On December 30, 2020, the ECP said that holding LG elections in Punjab was necessary under the law before February 3, 2021, and directed its offices to take steps for ensuring LG polls in Pakistan’s largest province “as early as possible.” But no significant progress could be achieved on this count.

In Wednesday meeting, the ECP took briefings by relevant officials on LG polls scenario in the country. The commission learnt that Punjab government was yet to hand over to ECP the maps and related documents for constituencies delimitation in the province. The electoral body decided to write yet another letter to Punjab government to provide maps and related documents for delimitation exercise in the province.

The commission also decided to write to Sindh and Balochistan governments to provide the maps and relevant documents for delimitation exercise.

Moreover, the commission decided to resume pending delimitation drive in the seven districts of KP.

Furthermore, the electoral body decided to write to federal Ministry of Interior (MoI) to provide the number of union councils in ICT. In case MoI failed to provide the relevant record, the ECP would start delimitation drive on previous UCs, it was decided.

The ECP was briefed that all arrangements for LG polls in cantonment boards have been finalised but ECP is yet to receive a formal request from federal government for holding LG polls in CBs. The electoral body decided to ask the relevant authorities to have the required request moved by the federal government, otherwise, the commission decided, it would unilaterally finalise a date for LG elections in CBs.

The next ECP meeting on LG polls is scheduled on May 27.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021