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Wednesday, May 22, 2024  
13 Dhul-Qadah 1445  

ECP warns staggered elections will lead to anarchy, poll violence

Defence ministry also calls for simultaneous elections across the country
PTI supporters are seen amid tear gas smoke, used to disperse them, after the Election Commission disqualified former prime minister Imran Khan on charges of unlawfully selling state gifts, during a protest in Islamabad, Pakistan on October 21, 2022. Reuters
PTI supporters are seen amid tear gas smoke, used to disperse them, after the Election Commission disqualified former prime minister Imran Khan on charges of unlawfully selling state gifts, during a protest in Islamabad, Pakistan on October 21, 2022. Reuters

The country’s top electoral authority – Election Commission of Pakistan – has warned of anarchy in the country if elections for provincial and national assemblies were held in a staggered manner and not on the same day.

In a report submitted to the Supreme Court of Pakistan the ECP has called for holding general elections across the county on the same day in October. The defence ministry, which filed a petition before the court, also demanded that elections be held on October 8.

A three member bench earlier this month ordered holding election for the Punjab assembly on May 14. It had warned if consequences of funds for the election expenses were not released to the ECP by April 17.

The bench had ordered the ECP and other bodies to submit their reports by April 18 which they did.

“The election commission had given the date of October 8 keeping in view the facts on the ground,” said the ECP report pertaining to the release of Rs21 billion for polls in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa presented in the Supreme Court on Tuesday. “The election commission believes that if this path is not adopted, anarchy will spread in the country.”

Along with the ECP, the State Bank of Pakistan also submitted a report to the top court.

A three-member SC bench comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, Justice Ijazul Ahsan and Justice Munib Akhtar in an April 4 verdict directed the government to provide Rs21 billion worth of funds to the ECP for holding polls in Punjab and KP by April 10.

But the government referred the matter to Parliament, which defied the court’s orders.

Later, the SC ordered the central bank to release the required funds. While some experts defended such orders, the government frowned at the chief justice of Pakistan’s directives to the SBP.

Replies were also submitted by the finance ministry and the state bank on how the court’s order had been carried out. The reply by the finance ministry also told the court how the matter had been approved by the cabinet for presentation in parliament where it had been rejected.

But many political experts wondered who would be next after the SBP as the non-availability of the security personnel was also an “issue” in delaying the election.

The available number of police personnel for Punjab elections was 81,050 while the requirement was 466,000, the report said and added that the police and other security agencies were engaged in operations.

The National Security Committee earlier this month decided to launch a new military operation against militants amid a rise in terrorist attacks.

The ECP claimed that the federal government did not respond to the letter, seeking deployment of the security personnel from the army and other institutions. The expenses incurred for the election include the movement of the security personnel, it added.

“Staggered elections increase the chances of violence,” it said, “a party that loses in one constituency may resort to violence in another constituency in the second phase.”

The ECP was of the view that the chances of “influencing the results” and “attacks by miscreants” also increases in the second phase.

Even if the Supreme Court orders elections in phases, a period of six months will be required for Punjab, the ECP said, adding that it could take more than six months to hold elections in phases.

The ECP blamed the non-provision of funds for the delayed election process. “Printing of electoral rolls and ballot papers is also delayed. If printing is not done on time, it will be impossible to hold elections on time,” it said.

Meanwhile, the defence ministry approached the Supreme Court, seeking simultaneous elections in the country.

“Elections should be ordered simultaneously across the country and the Supreme Court should withdraw the order of elections in Punjab,” the ministry said in its sealed envelope on Tuesday.

The court should order elections after the completion of the term of Sindh and Balochistan assemblies, it added. “There is a fear of attacks on the election campaign by terrorists and miscreants.”

It urged the apex court to withdraw the April 4 order in view of the security situation.

Parliament rejects funding

The National Assembly rejected the proposal for the release of the fund to the ECP on Monday.

The SBP said that it had reserved Rs21 billion for holding the election in the Punjab province but it cannot release the money to the Election Commission of Pakistan until the finance ministry granted its approval.

The federal cabinet held a meeting and granted the approval but send the issue to Parliament saying that only the Parliament has the authority to approve the allocation.

“The State Bank of Pakistan has no role in releasing funds. It is the National Assembly and finance ministry’s prerogative,” the law minister had said.

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Supreme Court

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Punjab KP Elections

Punjab Elections