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ISLAMABAD: Accusing Sindh and Balochistan governments as well as federal Interior Ministry of lack of cooperation, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Friday announced to have single-handedly launched the delimitation of constituencies exercise for local government elections in Sindh, Balochistan and Islamabad— without incorporating the input of the provincial and federal authorities concerned.

It is unclear how the electoral body would carry out the delimitation drive following the passage of the landmark electoral reforms by the Parliament, earlier on Wednesday.

The government’s electoral reforms agenda envisions delimitation of constituencies on the basis of voters instead of population—something that the electoral body vehemently opposes.

Furthermore, the government, through its electoral reforms legislation, has assigned NADRA (National Database and Registration Authority) central role in the preparation of voter lists, a major electoral exercise previously assigned to ECP.

In addition, this legislation provides for holding 2023 general elections on Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) while the electoral body has said it is ‘unsure’ if this target can be achieved. The internet voting (i-voting) facility for overseas Pakistanis is another thorny issue between the government and electoral body.

Senior ECP officials are of the view that the commission would be left ‘toothless’ if the government’s electoral reforms agenda is implemented in letter and spirit.

On the contrary, federal government officials are categorical in their contention that electoral reforms have been introduced to make the electoral process transparent and credible.

Meanwhile, in a statement issued Friday, the ECP said it held numerous meetings with the Sindh, Balochistan and federal Interior Ministry but they failed to provide relevant data for delimitation drive and conduct of LG polls.

The commission announced to launch the delimitation exercise using its powers under the Sindh Local Government Act 2013, Balochistan Local Government Act 2021 and Islamabad Capital Territory Local Government Act 2015.

According to the delimitation schedule, delimitation drive in Sindh would start on the coming December 1, to be completed till the coming February 23. In Balochistan, it would be done from December 6 till February 28. In ICT, this exercise would start and complete from November 25 to February 3.

So far, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is the only province where delimitation of constituencies exercise has been completed and LG polls elections schedule is announced.

On the last month’s 25th, ECP issued schedule for first phase of LG elections of village/neighbourhood and tehsil/city councils in 17 out of total 35 districts of KP where LG elections would be held on the coming December 19.

The second phase of LG elections of village/neighbourhood and tehsil/city councils would be held in the remaining 18 districts of KP on the coming January 16, the schedule for which is yet to be announced.

The ECP is yet to announce the schedule for LG elections in Punjab, Pakistan’s largest province. The ECP officials claim that the LG Punjab polls schedule would be announced in the coming days.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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