ECP directed to submit ‘realistic’ timeline for LG polls in Islamabad

Zubair Qureshi

The Islamabad High Court on Thursday directed the Election Commission of Pakistan to submit a “realistic” timeline for holding local government polls in the capital which were earlier scheduled for December 31 but later postponed by the Chief Election Commission on the basis of a legislation passed by the Parliament.

In Thursday’s hearing, Justice Arbab Muhammad Tahir directed the ECP to provide a timeline as to when it plans on holding the polls. If the court concludes by Dec 30 (today) that the elections cannot be held, then it will view the timeline, he said.

Justice Arbab was hearing the petition of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Jamaat-e-Islami which had sought the court to nullify the ECP’s decision of postponing the local government elections.

The ECP told the court that it could not hold elections on December 31 as it required as many as 60 days for the delimitation and also needed time to ensure that all the polling material is distributed.

Justice Tahir asked the ECP to submit the details of the funds utilized so far for the elections as he stressed not allowing the taxpayer’s money to go to waste.

As the hearing for the case resumed, the election commission’s Director-General (Law) informed the court that the body, in line with the law, required 60 days for delimitation.

“Will you be able to hold elections after 60 days, then? Also, what were the things on which the election commission spent funds?” the court inquired.

The ECP’s official told the court that the funds had been spent on the printing of ballot papers, among other things required for elections.

“Until now, millions of rupees have been spent then, and we will not allow the nation’s tax money to be wasted,” Justice Tahir stressed.

Attorney General Ashtar Ausaf Ali who was summoned for assisting the court with the case — advised recovering the money from the federal cabinet if the elections were not held on the stipulated time and the printing process was to be done all over again.

In response, the DG said during yesterday’s hearing, the court was informed that nearly Rs500-Rs600 million were spent, however, those facts are untrue. “It will take ECP Rs150-160 million to hold the elections.”

The court then asked the DG to submit, in writing, the details of the expenses incurred so far.

Then, Attorney-General for Pakistan Ashtar Ausaf told Justice Tahir that he agreed that the nation’s money should not go to waste. “We also ensure that the taxpayer’s money does not go to waste in our office.”

The AG then suggested to the court that to recover the money being wasted from cabinet members. The court then adjourned the hearing for Dec 30 (today).