pakistan polling booth election punjab lahore
Voters arrive to cast their ballot at a polling station during the by-election in Punjab province assembly seat in Lahore on July 17, 2022. Illustrative image. Image Credit: AFP

Karachi: After a delay of over six months, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has announced that the local government elections in two main cities of Sindh, Karachi and Hyderabad, will be held on January 15.

The municipal polls in Karachi and Hyderabad were originally scheduled for July 24, 2022, but were postponed multiple times, mainly due to heavy monsoon rains and floods earlier in the year. The repeated postponement of polls was denounced by the Opposition, which believed that the ruling Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has been shying away from its obligation fearing defeat in the provincial capital.

The first phase of the local government elections in four administrative divisions of the province was held on June 26, 2022.

The ECP announced the new date for the second phase of the polls in its ruling on the applications filed by the concerned political parties against any further delay in the elections.

The government earlier requested the ECP to defer the second phase of polls in Karachi and Hyderabad mainly due to a lack of police personnel in requisite numbers to perform security duties on the polling day.

The provincial authorities said the police personnel were busy with flood relief activities and performing security duties in Islamabad, due to the long march of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Inaf, so they weren’t available in sufficient numbers for maintaining peace in Karachi on the polling day.

Jamaat-e-Islami Karachi leader, Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rehman, said the ECP should make sure that the Sindh government provides all the required resources including the police force to smoothly hold the local government elections without any further delay.

He reminded the provincial authorities that they were duty-bound as per the constitution and law of the land to ensure the smooth conduct of the polls.

He said the municipal agencies of Karachi should also be empowered as per the Article 140-A of the Constitution, defining the concept of devolution of powers, for resolving civic issues of the people.

Government’s spokesman Barrister Murtaza Wahab said the ECP had earlier been approached to put off the polls as there was a shortage of around 17,000 police personnel to ensure security at some 5,000 polling stations to be established in Karachi.

Local Government Minister, Syed Nasir Hussain Shah, said the government in view of the shortage of police personnel had earlier requested the ECP to hold municipal polls in Karachi in two phases. “It is absurd to assume that the PPP has been running away from its obligation to hold the municipal polls in Karachi as the party is keen to win the second phase of elections like it convincingly won the first phase,” he said.