“Election Commission of Pakistan raises concerns over feasibility of holding May 14th elections in Punjab”

Election Commission of Pakistan raises concerns over feasibility of holding May 14th elections in Punjab
Election Commission of Pakistan raises concerns over feasibility of holding May 14th elections in Punjab
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The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has expressed concerns over the feasibility of holding elections on May 14th in Punjab. The body has cited inadequate funds and forces for maintaining law and order as the reason behind the impossibility of conducting polls. The ECP stated in its report submitted to the Supreme Court that they require a minimum of 466,000 personnel for security in Punjab alone, and they had written to the federation for assistance, but no response was received. They warned that there could be anarchy and chaos in the country if they are not able to follow their itinerary for polls.

Earlier, a three-member Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Umar Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Ijaz ul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar had directed the State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) to release funds for polls in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by April 17th. The same bench had fixed May 14th as the new date for the election to the Punjab Assembly, quashing the ECP’s decision to extend the polls from April 10th to October 8th.

The ECP’s report submitted to the Supreme Court expressed that in the present charged political environment and resultant volatile law and order situation, cross border terrorism, insurgencies, potential threats to the leaders, and lack of foolproof security, it would not be possible for the Commission to ensure an honest, just, fair, and peaceful election. The ECP report stated that if the police were not supplemented by the army and other law enforcement agencies in a static mode, the security of life and property of voters, electoral staff, and the public at large would be at risk.

The ECP maintained that the responsibility of conducting transparent, fair and peaceful polls was theirs and that in view of the ground facts, October 8th was the appropriate date for conducting the elections. They added that printing of electoral rolls with photographs was already delayed and today, April 18th, was the last date to make payment for the printing of ballot papers. The report emphasized that they were obligated to ensure that a conducive environment exists, providing a level playing field to the contesting candidates and political parties. The commission warned that non-adherence to the October 8th date could lead to anarchy in the country.

Today, top officials of the intelligence agencies briefed the Supreme Court on the current security challenges being faced by the country regarding elections in the provinces. Justice Ahsan and Justice Akhtar were briefed by the security officials, who said the meeting went on for more than two hours at the CJP’s chamber.

The ECP has proposed the date of October 8th, 2023, as poll date mainly on account of the intelligence-based operations (IBOs) being conducted in the Kacha areas bordering Sindh and Punjab. These IBOs have been supported by the Pakistan Army, the Punjab Rangers, and Sindh Rangers. The ECP said IBOs would require at least 4 -5 months to complete and hopefully ensure that the TTP and other terrorist organizations are effectively neutered. The commission emphasized that the responsibility of the Election Commission of Pakistan was to ensure that the standards of honesty, justness and fairness were fully met and not compromised on any account.

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