Karachi LG polls postponed, JI and PTI to challenge the move

Rejecting the Sindh government’s request to postpone the local government elections, the ECP on Friday decided to hold the exercise on January 15 in Karachi and Hyderabad.

The decision was taken in a chaired by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja in Islamabad, as the ECP (Election Commission of Pakistan) reviewed the situation after the provincial government’s request.

In a surprising move, the Sindh government in early hours of Friday had announced that the local government elections, scheduled for Jan 15, would not be held in Karachi, Hyderabad and Dadu. However, the polls will go ahead as per plan in Tando Allayar, Tando Muhammad Khan, Badin, Thatta, Sujawal and Jamshoro.

However, the two opposition parties, JI and PTI which are hoping to control the port city’s affairs as a result of these elections, vowed to resist the move, describing it as unacceptable.

Addressing a press conference, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Memon also said the notification to hold the polls on the basis of the existing delimitation had been withdrawn on the demand of their coalition partner, the MQM-P, which had serious reservations with it.

The moves comes as the MQM-P had rejected the delimitation of local government constituencies, terming them unjustified. As a result, the second phase of local government elections in Sindh has been postponed for the third time – originally scheduled for July 24 but delayed because of the unprecedented monsoon rains and floods.

Later, the ECP rescheduled the polls for Aug 28, but they were deferred again due to the flood situation and a shortage of police personnel in Karachi.

Memon said that the provincial government had already written to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for postponing local government elections in Dadu since swathes of the district were still under floodwaters.

The decision came after an emergency meeting of presided over by PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari with Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, provincial cabinet members and others. Prior to the PPP meeting, the Sindh cabinet had postponed its meeting where the issue was expected to be taken up.

However, the term of the local governments had expired on Aug 30, 2020, and the ECP is bound to hold elections within 120 days of this.

Shortly after the announcement, an MQM-P delegation reached the Chief Minister’s House to thank the Sindh government for following through on the party’s demand to delay the local body polls.

JI and PTI don’t agree

In a statement, JI Karachi president Hafiz Naeem-Ur-Rehman said his party would not accept the postponement of the elections and termed the decision an ambush on Karachi and Hyderabad by the PPP and MQM-P.

He asked the JI members to remain on their marks with unwavering courage as the party’s line of action will be issued soon. “The Sindh government’s decision is not acceptable under any circumstances.”

Asking the party activists to gear up for protest on Friday, he said: “We will stage a protest, go to the Election Commission of Pakistan’s premises, and the court as well. We will not let these people — the MQM-P and PPP — flee.”

“This [postponement of LG elections] is nothing but backstabbing and an overnight ambush. This is a repeat of what has always happened as the MQM-P and the PPP commit wrongs [against the people].”

Naeem termed the two parties as “robbers” who deprived the youth of their rights, leaving them bereft of education and other basic amenities of civic life. He said the parties pound to devour “even a single ray of hope whenever it is created”.

In a similar reaction, the PTI said they would challenge the delay in the courts and explore every democratic avenue, as the party’s Sindh chapter president, Ali Zaidi, said the provincial government took the step as they were afraid of defeat. The PTI will give a call for protest on Saturday after consultations, he added.

 Leader of the Opposition in Sindh Assembly Haleem Adil Sheikh said the MQM-P had worked as a pressure group to the PPP and the two parties were two sides of the same coin. “Sindh’s biggest ailment and money-worshipper fled Karachi after he had to lick the dust in Punjab,” Sheikh said and added that he should quit politics by admitting moral as well as political defeat.

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