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Pakistan: Punjab elections on May 14 can lead to “anarchy and chaos”, ECP tells SC

Islamabad [Pakistan], April 19 (ANI): The Election Commission of Pakistan on Tuesday expressed serious reservations over holding the Punjab Assembly elections on May 14, and said that “anarchy and chaos” can break out in the country if its itinerary for polls is not followed, Pakistan-based The Express Tribune Newspaper reported.

According to The Express Tribune, a three-judge bench led by the chief justice and comprising Justice Munib Akhtar and Justice Ijazul Ahsan, on April 4 declared as “unconstitutional” the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision to postpone the election for the Punjab Assembly to October 8 and ordered it to hold polls in the province on May 14.

The ECP on March 22 delayed the provincial assembly election in the politically-crucial Punjab province by more than five months, citing a deteriorating security situation in the cash-starved country.

The electoral body in its report submitted to the Supreme Court on Tuesday said it will not be possible for the ECP to ensure “honest, just, fair and peaceful election to the Provincial Assembly of Punjab” in view of the charged political environment and reports by relevant stakeholders including security agencies and the provincial government.

The ECP report read: “In view of the […] detailed deliberation and considering the circumstances, reports, briefings and material brought before it, by the Provincial Governments, Ministries of Defense and Interior and the Intelligence Agencies, is of sanguine view that in the present charged political environment, and resultant volatile law and order situation, cross border terrorism, insurgencies, potential threats to the leaders and consequent lack of foolproof security, non-provision of troops in a static mode coupled with lack of requisite funds, it will not be possible for the Commission to ensure honest, just,fair and peaceful election to the Provincial Assembly of Punjab.”

It added, moreover, if the police are not supplemented by the army and other law enforcing agencies in a static mode, the security of life and property of voters, electoral staff and public at large will be at risk.

“… the Commission is obligated to ensure that a conducive environment exists and whereby it is able to provide a level playing field to the contesting candidates and the political parties besides ensuring foolproof security for the voters, being the primary stakeholders and the polling staff and public at large.”

The electoral body said the timeline of 90 days provided in Article 224(2) of the Constitution is a constitutional imperative as held by the Supreme Court in the order dated 31-03-2023.

“However, there is another constitutional imperative in Article 218(3) of the constitution, obligating the Commission to organise and conduct the Elections to ensure that the standards of honesty, justness and fairness is fully met and not compromised on any account. In the absence of conducive environment and foolproof security, one imperative of 90 days will be at the cost of another constitutional imperative which is apparently not the intention of the framers of the Constitution,” the ECP said in its response, The Express Tribune reported.

The report said the ECP had proposed the date of October 8, 2023, as the poll date mainly on account of the intelligence-based operations (IBOs) being conducted in the Kacha areas bordering Sindh and Punjab and these IBOs have been supported by the Pakistan Army, the Punjab Rangers and Sindh Rangers.

The ECP said IBOs will require 4 -5 months at least to complete and will hopefully ensure that the TTP and other terrorist organisations are effectively neutered.

The Commission is mindful, as stated, that there can be no compromise on the security and safety of the voters, polling staff and the public at large.

It maintained that the responsibility of the Election Commission of Pakistan is not only to conduct elections but that such elections should be free, fair and transparent, so that the voters can cast their votes freely, without fear and peacefully, as per The Express Tribune.

“It is re-iterated that the poll date of 8th October, 2023 as announced earlier is in keeping with the ground realities and it is also believed that if this itinerary is not followed, it may lead to anarchy and chaos in our country, the responsibility of which ECP cannot withstand,” it warned. (ANI)

This report is auto-generated from ANI news service. ThePrint holds no responsibility for its content.

Source: The Print

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