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ISLAMABAD: Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja on Friday made it crystal clear to Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) that local government (LG) elections in Karachi and Hyderabad will not be delayed no matter what.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) reserved the verdict on a petition filed by MQM-P about dual electoral lists in Karachi and Hyderabad.

During the hearing, the chief election commissioner told the counsel for MQM-P that he had gone to various forums, however, the issue was never raised before.

He told him to raise any other issue so that the bench can hear all the issues together. The CEC further remarked that the lawyer is giving a wrong statement regarding the dual electoral rolls, rejecting his statement.

“You think you can get the elections delayed when your arguments are irrelevant so far,” he told the lawyer.

Raja said that the local government elections in Karachi will not be delayed, saying it is the ECP’s job to conduct the polls.

The CEC also stated that the MQM-P also contested the 2018 election and by-elections and that the LG elections are being held on the same lists on which it contested the previous elections.

In his remarks, the MQM-P’s counsel raised another objection and said that the ECP was incomplete on April 29, 2022.

Irked by the remark, the CEC said that there is no mention of ECP being incomplete in the submitted application by the party.

“Stick to the petition, don’t talk about other things. The elections will not be delayed in any case,” he declared.

On the other hand, Additional Advocate General Sindh Fawzi Zafar requested the bench to give him time till next week to start his arguments in the case.

The electoral watchdog then terminated the Sindh government’s right to argue, citing a lack of preparation.

While giving his arguments during the hearing, a representative of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) told the ECP that every possible effort is being made to postpone the local government elections.

He further said that LG elections should be held on January 15.

In his remarks, Special Secretary ECP Zafar Iqbal took the stand that with “every passing day, people are eligible to vote, if MQM-P’s demands are accepted, the LG polls will never be held”.

Moreover, DG Law ECP requested to reject the application of MQM-P and said that voter lists are updated with time.

He said that it was also clear in the press release that the LG elections will be held on the old list, adding the election schedule was never withdrawn.

Subsequently, the ECP reserved its decision on the petitions related to voter lists in the Karachi LG elections.

The second phase of the LG polls in Karachi and Hyderabad divisions are scheduled to be held on January 15.

It may be recalled that Karachi and Hyderabad were supposed to hold the second round of LG elections on July 24, 2022. However, the Sindh administration excused itself from holding the polls over the lack of security and police presence because of the flooding.

Later, the local body elections were rescheduled for August 28, 2022.Moreover, as the elections did not take place on that day, the date was again set as October 23 last year.

However, the polls were postponed on that date too.

The MQM-P has taken a stand that elections should not be held until the necessary legislation, constituencies, and voters’ lists were corrected.

The party has also said that the elections should not be held unless local governments and constituencies were given their due authority.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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