Local government elections in Karachi and Hyderabad divisions will be held on January 15, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced on Tuesday as it issued its detailed judgment on the matter.
The ECP issued a 10-page detailed decision and ordered the secretary interior and Sindh inspector general (IG) to make security arrangements for the elections.
"These elections will be held under Article 220 of the Constitution," it stated, adding that the "chief secretary and IG Sindh shall provide adequate security on polling day".
"Security should also be provided to polling stations, electoral staff and returning officers," the ECP stated, issuing instructions to also provide security for the delivery of election materials.
The electoral watchdog has also directed the interior ministry to provide security personnel to ensure safety, while simultaneously issuing directives to all concerned authorities of the commission to take the necessary steps for the elections.
Read Karachi DCs tell election commission all set for LG polls
The ECP's verdict comes four days after the Sindh High Court (SHC) directed it to announce the date for local government elections in the two cities within 15 days, and to complete the election process within two months.
“We would not go so far as to dictate the date…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 court said, adding that the polling process preferably conclude the overall exercise “in any event within a total period of 60 days.”
A two-member bench headed by Sindh Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M Shaikh and comprising Justice Yousuf Ali Sayeed disposed of the petitions filed by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) regarding the delays in the local bodies’ elections in Karachi and Hyderabad.
“Allegorically, much water has flowed since the advent of the floods, and it is questionable whether the continued preoccupation of law enforcement personnel in relief operations remains so emergent with the efflux of time as to constitute a valid cause for their being withheld from election duty,” read the 16-page verdict.
Last week, the chief election commissioner (CEC) had said that the election commission wanted to hold local body polls in Karachi at the earliest, however, the election commission had reserved its decision in this regard.
The election commission under article 220 can issue direct orders to hold polls but soon an appropriate decision will be announced. He suggested deploying personnel from Punjab for polls.
JI's Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rehman, Waseem Akhtar of MQM, Administrator Karachi and PPP leader Murtaza Wahab and IG Sindh were present at the ECP on the occasion.
Joint Secretary of the Ministry of Interior Mohammad Ramzan Malik said, "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 maintaining peace and order, the secretary said.
PTI welcomes LG polls
Terming local body elections "the nursery of democracy", PTI Sindh President Ali Zaidi hailed the decision.
Speaking to media outside the ECP, Zaidi said that "today the decision has come only after the matter was dragged around in courts".
"The first phase of the elections had looked like a battlefield," he continued, "shots were fired, batons were charged".
"Nobody's candidate was being permitted to stand" in the first phase, he alleged, "finally the second phase is going to be held now on January 15".
"All of the people's problems are solved through municipal elections," he added.
On November 18, the ECP had decided to put off local government elections in Karachi for a third time on Sindh’s request while it asked the Punjab government to legislate on the local bodies within a week or hold the polls based on the previous laws.
The decision to postpone local body elections in Karachi was made in a meeting chaired by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikander Sultan Raja.
The huddle reviewed the interior ministry's letter in which it had expressed its inability to provide security personnel for the local government elections.
Read more CEC claims no govt in Punjab willing to conduct LG polls
The federal government had also asked the electoral body to decide about conducting local government elections in the port city after consulting with the Sindh government.
The meeting was attended by the police chief and chief secretary of Sindh and other relevant officials.
Sindh had sought postponement of the LG polls for three months in seven districts of Karachi, scheduled to take place on October 23.
The second phase of the LG elections in Sindh was originally scheduled to take place on July 24.
However, it was put off twice due to unprecedented rains and the subsequent flooding.