CEC suggests calling in police from Punjab
The chief election commissioner on Tuesday said the election commission wants to hold local body polls in Karachi at the earliest and suggested deploying personnel from Punjab for administering the polls.
Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rehman of Jamaat-e-Islami, Waseem Akhtar of MQM, Administrator Karachi and PPP leader Murtaza Wahab and IG Sindh were present at the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on the occasion.
Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Interior Mohammad Ramzan Malik said that the federal government cannot provide security for the election for the time being. The civil armed forces cannot provide security services for the local government polls as the personnel are still busy in flood relief operations and also due to the “law and order situation”, the secretary said.
The Sindh government also excused itself from holding the local body polls citing the unavailability of security. Administrator Murtaza Wahab argued that Karachi municipal elections should be postponed for 90 days keeping in view the present situation.
Meanwhile, IG Sindh and chief secretary Sindh also requested the ECP to consider postponing the local elections.
Upon this, ECP member Nisar Durrani expressed reservations that further postponement may translate to a breach of constitutional provisions.
Special Secretary Zafar Iqbal added that the Ministry of Interior has excused itself from deploying armed forces personnel on October 18.
Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja said that the provincial government cannot amend laws to postpone local body elections and that “the announcement of the date for local government elections is the responsibility of the ECP”.
“If Sindh police officials are deployed in Islamabad to provide security there,” the CEC continued, “how about deploying Punjab police officials in Sindh? Rangers or other law enforcement agencies can be deployed for security; we can ask the Punjab government for security.”
Waseem Akhtar claimed that the population of Karachi was “reduced by half in the census”, and said, “there are major flaws in the constituencies in Karachi”.
However, unimpressed by the argument the, CEC asked them to take the objections on the census to the Council of Common Interests (CCI). “The ECP is not the relevant forum to discuss the objections on the census,” he added, “MQM did not raise its concerns at the appropriate forum at the right time”.
JI’s Naeem-ur-Rehman argued that the army, FC or police from other provinces should be called in to administer the provincial capital’s local elections.
“The PPP-MQM coalition government had itself approved the fake census; today the postponement of local elections is being sought under the guise of the census,” he retorted.
While suggesting 45-days’ time for preparations, he said that “the situation in Karachi is bad, local body elections should not be postponed any more, even if the mayor of Karachi is powerless, he will raise his voice,” he added.
The JI leader also alleged that the Sindh government “never really wants to hold elections” in Karachi adding that at this rate, “no elections would ever be held”. Taking a dig at the rival party, he added that “those who used to shut down Karachi with the blink of an eye are now saying that the city never got its rights”.
“MQM is part of the federal [coalition] government,” he stressed, “and yet it speaks of marginalization” and demanded polls be held under the deployment of the army.
“The ECP made direct contacts through the interior ministry [with the Centre],” the CEC responded stating that the federal government was “not prepared to offer static duty deployment of either the army or the Rangers”.
However, he said, “the ECP wishes to hold local elections in Karachi at the earliest” and noted that the electoral watchdog had the authority to issue direct orders under Article 220.
The ECP has reserved its judgment on the matter after the CEC said that the watchdog would “issue an appropriate verdict” regarding local body polls.