In an important development, the Sindh High Court (SHC) on Friday directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to announce a new schedule for the local government elections in Karachi and Hyderabad – the two most populace cities of the province – within 15 days.
“We would not go so far as to dictate the date of the election or direct the manner in which the same ought to be conducted or policed, but would note that the ECP may notify the polling date, preferably within a period of 15 days from the date of this order,” the SHC judgment reads.
The court asked the ECP to specify a fresh polling date and preferably conclude the overall exercise of the “election in any event within a total period of 60 days”.
The judgment, which was reserved on November 14 on the petitions of JI and PTI against the delay in the local body polls, also says the Sindh government should provide security for executing the process.
Political parties and people have been waiting for the local government elections which have been delayed multiple times since July after the provincial government repeatedly refrained from providing security for the elections due to floods.
The elections were initially scheduled for July 24, but they were delayed due to “bad weather and rains”. Then, polling was set to take place on August 28 and October 24, but the provincial government refused to provide security.
In its latest move to delay the polling further, the provincial cabinet, under Sindh Local Government Act, 2013, had earlier this month had approved delaying the polls.
Also, the ECP had reserved its ruling on the issue and it is not clear when the when will the decision be announced.
In his reaction, JI Karachi chief Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rehman described the ruling as a victory for the people of Karachi and said the ECP should conduct the local elections as soon as possible and not delay them any further.
He criticised the Sindh government for the delay in the elections, saying the PPP did not want to hold local elections. “They have police to send to Islamabad, but they cannot provide law enforcement officials for the elections,” he said and added, “It is time for them to accept their defeat and brace themselves for the elections.”
On the other hand, PTI leader Khurram Sher Zaman told reporters said that the Sindh government had made a “drama” out of the local government polls. “The Sindh government and its allies know if the elections take place, it will be the final nail in their coffin,” he added.