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ECP Rejects Senate’s Delay in Polls

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The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has rejected a demand made in a Senate resolution seeking a delay in the February 8 polls, stating that all arrangements have been completed and it will not be “advisable” to put off the polls. The ECP statement comes in response to the Senate’s January 5 resolution moved by Senator Dilawar Khan and passed by the house amid thin attendance. The resolution cited harsh weather conditions in hilly areas and the deteriorating security situation as reasons for delaying the polls.

In the statement today, the ECP said it deliberated on the resolution in the meeting and observed that caretaker governments had been issued directions for “beefing up security matrix and provide congenial environment to the electorate” for peaceful elections. Moreover, the electoral body said it submitted a commitment before the Supreme Court to hold elections on Feb 8, 2024. Similarly, the ECP said it would not be out of place to mention that in the past general elections and local government polls have been held in the winter season.

Earlier today, Independent lawmaker Dilawar Khan urged Senate Chairman Sadiq Sanjrani to ensure implementation of his resolution — recently adopted by the upper house of parliament — seeking a delay in the February 8 polls. To the surprise and disbelief of many, on January 5, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution to postpone the February 8 general elections in the country. In a letter sent to the Senate chairman, Senator Dilawar said despite the House’s explicit urging and the subsequent dispatch of a copy of the resolution to the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), “it is disconcerting that no tangible steps have been taken by the ECP to postpone the General Elections scheduled for February 8, 2024”.

As mover of the resolution, Senator Dilawar said he firmly believed that the concerns articulated in the resolution must be promptly addressed. “The essence of holding free and fair elections appears compromised without a resolution to the issues raised.” The senator said it is imperative to ensure the postponement of the elections for the effective “participation of people from all areas of Pakistan and across the entire political spectrum in the electioneering process”. “Your [the Senate chairman’s] swift attention to this matter is highly appreciated, and I eagerly anticipate an update on the steps taken in this regard,” the letter added. Following the passage of Senator Delawar’s resolution, two more resolutions were submitted to the upper house’s secretariat by independent Senators Hidayat All three senators have cited cold weather and security situation as reasons for delaying the elections in the country.

The general elections in the country are scheduled to take place on February 8 with all political parties and independent candidates have been allocated electoral symbols. The Supreme Court’s last month verdict invalidating the Lahore High Court (LHC) decision on suspending the appointment of returning officers (ROs) ended the uncertainty surrounding the elections. However, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI-F) Maulana Fazlur Rehman has also suggested delaying polls given a spike in terror incidents in the country particularly KP.

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