Pakistan: ECP says general elections not possible in three months

Islamabad, April 5 : The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday said that it will not be possible to conduct general elections within three months, citing various legal hitches and procedural challenges as the reason, Dawn reported. A senior ECP official said that it would take at least six months to prepare for the general elections. Explaining that he said fresh delimitation of constituencies, particularly in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where the number of seats had been increased under the 26th Amend­ment, and bringing district- and constituency-wise electoral rolls in conformity were some of the major challenges. He further said that “Delimitation is a time-consuming exercise where the law provides for one month’s time just to invite objections,” he said, adding that another one month was required to address the same. He said a minimum of three months would be required to complete the entire exercise, followed by another gigantic task of updating voters’ lists which will also be time consuming. The official said other challenges included procurement of election material, arrangement for ballot papers and appointment and training of polling staff etc. He said that under the law, ballot papers with water mark were to be used which were not available in the country and would have to be imported. He revealed that the ECP had proposed to amend the law to provide for ballot papers with ‘security features’, instead of ‘water mark’. The official further said that inviting bids and scrutinising financial and technical quotations would also require some time. About the election material, he said some two million stamp pads would be required for around 100,000 polling stations. Other materials in huge quantity, including scissors and ball points, will also have to be procured,” he said. Referring to some legal hitches, the official said that under Section 14 of the Elections Act, the ECP was to announce an election plan four months prior to the polls. He said the law requiring use of EVMs (electronic voting machines) and giving overseas Pakistanis voting rights also held the field and had to be repealed. The official said the commission had already announced the schedule for local government (LG) elections in Baluchistan, setting May 29 as the polling day, while the process was also under way to hold LG polls in Punjab, Sindh and Islamabad. “We will have to drop the plan for LG polls, if general elections are to be conducted,” adding an early election may not be a smooth process in view of several constitutional and legal complications involved. ACL1027

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