ISLAMABAD: Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has accused the Punjab government of trying to create hurdles in holding local government elections in the country’s largest province by not releasing funds - and has summoned federal secretary finance and chief secretary Punjab in relation to the matter.

These developments surfaced in a high-level ECP meeting presided over by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja on Friday.

LG elections in 17 districts of Punjab are scheduled under first phase on May 29.

The meeting was briefed that ECP wrote a letter to Finance Division for the provision of required funds for holding LG elections in Punjab. On the advice of Finance Division, the ECP moved a summary for supplementary grant to Economic Coordination Committee (ECC) that was approved by the latter and then by federal cabinet, the meeting was briefed.

When the ECP reached out to Finance Division for the release of funds, the latter informed the former that Punjab government was yet to issue a no objection certificate (NOC) for the release of its share of funds for holding the LG polls.

ECP officials, in the meeting, were of the view that federal and provincial governments were bound to render the required administrative and financial assistance to the ECP in holding elections but “hurdles are being created on one pretext or another.”

The commission then decided to summon Federal Secretary Finance Hamed Yaqoob Sheikh and Chief Secretary Punjab Kamran Ali Afzal in the next meeting expected soon.

Keeping in view the existing situation, the meeting decided to launch and complete the delimitation drive related to NA constituencies within four months on “emergency basis”— on the notified results of population census 2017— without waiting for the new digital census that was to be launched by federal government. The electoral body decided to seek the required data from the provincial governments regarding constituencies.

The meeting directed the senior ECP officials to place before the commission the action plan on general elections on the coming Wednesday.

Earlier on Wednesday, President Arif Alvi, through a letter, sought the date from the electoral body for holding general elections, within 90 days of the dissolution of NA, under Article 48(5)(A) and Article 224(2) of the Constitution.

In response, the commission responded that general elections were not possible before October this year and it needed four months to complete the delimitation drive in order to hold the general polls within 90 days. However, the Supreme Court has declared as unconstitutional the dissolution of NA and has restored the lower house of the Parliament.

According to ECP, Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA’s) merger with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa resulted into the reduction of related NA seats from 12 to six, reducing the general NA seats from 272 to 266 which necessitated the need to launch afresh the exercise to delimit constituencies of NA.

The ECP says the delimitation exercise was launched after the results of population census 2017 were finally notified on May 6, 2021. However, the government decided to launch afresh the digital population census following which, the ECP said, it halted its delimitation drive.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2022


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