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ISLAMABAD: General elections may likely see an inordinate delay following the apparent failure of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to ensure there timely conduct, yet the electoral body has allowed assigning data entry operators to the returning officers for general polls.

In this context, the services of some 3,600 data entry operators would be assigned to the returning officers, the commission announced on Wednesday.

These operators would be imparted capacity-building training ahead of their assignment for the general polls, the electoral organisation said. The development surfaces at a time when uncertainty shrouds the fate of the general elections.

Delimitation drive to be completed by Nov 30: ECP

The mainstream political parties including Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Balochistan National Party (BNP), Awami National Party (ANP) and others have lambasted the ECP for its failure in announcing general elections’ date within the constitutionally-mandated 90-day period and issuing the related electoral schedule.

Last month, the ECP drew the ire of public and political circles for “unilaterally” deciding to launch the delimitation of constituencies of the assemblies on August 17—without taking any political party on board.

The commission then invited the political parties for holding separate meetings with the electoral body’s management to discuss issues related to the general polls including elections’ schedule, date and delimitation.

The delimitation exercise was originally scheduled to complete on December 14 but the commission revised this date to November 30 after holding meetings with political parties.

The National Assembly was dissolved on the last month’s 9th—whereas general polls are required to be held not later than November 7 this year, within the 90-day period mandated by the constitution.

Sindh and Balochistan legislatures were also dissolved last month.

Article 224(2) provides that when the NA or a provincial assembly is dissolved, a general election to the assembly shall be held within a period of 90 days after the dissolution, and the results of the election shall be declared not later than 14 days after the conclusion of the polls.

The general elections in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are already witnessing inordinate delay – keeping in view that both the provincial legislatures were dissolved in January this year and respective caretaker governments are since running the affairs of the two provinces.

Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja has claimed in his meetings with the political parties’ representatives that the ECP intends to reduce the duration of the delimitation drive and announce the general polls’ schedule immediately after the completion of the delimitation exercise.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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