ECP expected to announce schedule for Punjab elections today

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is expected to announce the schedule for general polls in Punjab today (Tuesday).

President Arif Alvi has already fixed the April 30 (Sunday) as the date for elections in Punjab.

Meanwhile, the sources told the publication that the Election Commision has decided to appoint judicial officers as district returning officers (DROs) and returning officers (ROs) for the upcoming general election in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Sources, privy to the meetings presided by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja at the ECP, said that the electoral body will soon be sending letters to the Lahore High Court (LHC) and Peshawar High Court (PHC) for assistance in this regard.

“As compared to other officials, tasked with the duty of district returning offices and returning officers, the history bears testimony to the fact that there are far fewer complaints in relation to the conduct of election processes. Therefore, the Election Commission is keen to seek cooperation from the judiciary on this count,” they added.

Officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, shared that the decision to write to the two top provincial courts had been taken after Supreme Court’s ruling in the general election delay case.

The operative part of the verdict says: “For election to an assembly, the Commission shall, in the prescribed manner, appoint a district returning officer for each district or a specified area from amongst its own officers subject to availability; by selection from a list of officers provided by the government or a provincial government; or from the subordinate judiciary in consultation with the Chief Justice of the high court concerned.”

Earlier, after the dissolution of Punjab and KP assemblies, the commission had written to the high courts and requested them to appoint judicial officers for election-related duty.

However, the LHC Registrar had informed the ECP that it was unable to spare members of the subordinate judiciary. While the PHC is yet to respond to the ECP’s request.

The ECP sources said the recent apex court judgment had given new hope to the body, which had been not comfortable with the government officers, as they could easily be influenced by the officials.

In this connection, they referred to a large number of complaints, which poured in during the recently-conducted local government polls in Sindh, and the Daska by-election, when the presiding officers mysteriously disappeared to manipulate the election results.

Also in Karachi, some presiding officers expressed ignorance about their signatures on the result forms during Election Commission hearings. Jamaat-e-Islami had filed petitions in relation to six union councils, alleging irregularities therein.

The sources also pointed out that the ECP was not willing to appoint district administration officials due to the shortage of officers.

They added that the ECP was forced to appoint “junior level officers” for election duties, many of whom have political backgrounds and hence can be influenced so easily one way or the other.

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