ECP to unveil LG poll schedule for Sindh, Punjab, K-P on Feb 12

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will submit a tentative schedule for local body elections in Sindh, Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), before the Supreme Court (SC) on February 12, as the apex court is set to take up the issue once again.
The commission is working on tentative dates for the LG polls in these provinces, and submit the schedule before the SC to build pressure on the provinces to fulfill their constitutional obligation.
LG polls in Sindh, Punjab and K-P are due since 2009 — when the last LG system expired. The only exception, Balochistan, completed the process of LG elections on January 28 this year.
“We are deliberating possible dates of polls and will convey that to the SC,” an official associated with LG polls in the ECP said.
ECP plans to hold LG polls in K-P by May. The tentative schedule for it is being discussed with the provincial government, the official said.
The official added that the only remaining hitch now was the K-P government’s insistence to go for polls on the same day across the province. The ECP has proposed that the provincial government to hold polls in phases owing to issues of security and logistics.
“This is not a big issue. Hopefully it will be resolved in the next meeting,” the official said. However, he did not know the date for the next meeting.
ECP officials claim that almost all pre-requisites for going to the polls were complete for K-P.
Punjab, Sindh big worry
Punjab and Sindh – the country’s biggest provinces by population — have been dragging their feet over local body elections with neither providing ECP with complete delimitation data.
“ECP will submit a schedule contingent to the time frame for fresh delimitations,” officials said.
ECP officials added that they plan to start delimitations in mid-February, with the process expected to take around four months.
“It takes another two to four months to hold polls once the delimitation process is complete. We will fix a tentative date for polls accordingly,” officials said.
Islamabad and cantonments
The federal capital and cantonments remain far behind when it comes to having any local governments.
The Parliament has to pass the local government laws for them. Proposed legislations for an LG system in Islamabad and cantonment, pending with the National Assembly’s standing committee since last year, have yet to be taken up.
It is only after a local government system is adopted by the legislature, the rules are framed, that delimitations can be carried out for holding elections.
Delimitations holding up LG elections
After the 18th constitutional amendment package adopted by Parliament in 2010, the subject of local governments was devolved to provinces which are empowered to adopt any system of their choice for local governments. They were empowered frame subsequent rules and conduct delimitations.
ECP’s role was limited to just supervising the polls. However, opposition parties in Punjab and Sindh accused their respective provincial governments for what they called biased demarcation of boundaries for LG constituencies. This prompted the opposition parties to mount legal challenges in the respective high courts.
The superior judiciary decided the cases in favour of petitioners, and directed that the ECP should conduct delimitations in these provinces. The courts also directed Punjab and Sindh to make changes in their legislation to empower ECP conduct delimitations. It took both provinces months to do so.
Officials in the elections wing of the ECP claim that it has been well over a year since have asked the provincial administration to hand over maps and other data of delimitations which are necessary to kick start fresh delimitations.
In the last hearing on January 8 this year, the SC had asked the ECP to come up with the schedule for the polls in the next hearing. It directed the provinces to provide all necessary assistance.
ECP officials are hopeful that these two provinces will complete the handing over of data of all their districts in the coming week so that the commission can chalk out a clear schedule for the polls.
In case their data and documents are not received by next week, the ECP would plead the SC to take action against the provincial governments for not following the orders of the highest court of the country.