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ECP likely to face political parties, public ire again – Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is once again likely to come under criticism from political parties and public circles as it is going to hold another by-election, this time in Punjab Assembly’s constituency PP-84 Khushab, tomorrow (Wednesday)—on a working day in Ramazan amidst ever increasing COVID-19 cases—that are likely to contribute to low voters’ turnout in the by-poll.

On Tuesday, the electoral body announced that respective electoral campaigns of the contesting candidates in Khushab would be ending midnight falling between May 3-4 and directed the poll contestants to wind up their election campaigns before this deadline in accordance with the ECP’s code of conduct for general/by-polls.

The ECP said it has assigned rangers and police outside all the 229 polling stations in the constituency for security purposes and that a special control room has been set up to monitor the transmission of poll results.

The ECP had made similar claims ahead of the controversial by-election on National Assembly’s seat NA-249 Karachi West II held April 29 that has been rejected by most political parties that contested the poll.

The political parties are now demanding a re-poll in NA-249 Karachi keeping in view its highly low voters’ turnout of just 21.64 per cent.

Furthermore, serious questions have been raised regarding transparency of the by-poll due to unusual delay in the compilation and transmission of election results.

In addition, ECP is faced with enormous criticism from political and public circles for deciding to hold the NA-249 by-election on a working day and that too in Ramazan amidst alarming spread of coronavirus.

The ECP issued NA-249 official poll results on Form 47. But, after the political parties rejected these results, the electoral body decided to ‘withhold’ the results that were already declared by it. After remaining under strong criticism, the ECP accepted PML-N’s request for recounting of votes.

In Khushab where by-poll is being held on provincial assembly seat, the said seat got vacated in March following the death of Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) Member Provincial Assembly (MPA) Malik Muhammad Waris Kallu due to coronavirus.

PML-N has awarded ticket to Kallu’s son Barrister Muazzam to contest the by-poll.

Ali Hussain Khan Baloch from Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Ghulam Habib from Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) are in run for the provincial assembly seat.

Last month, ECP issued ‘warnings’ to PTI Member National Assembly (MNA) Malik Muhammad Ehsan Ullah Tiwana and senior Punjab government officials for “meddling in electoral affairs” in violation of ECP’s code of conduct related to by-election in provincial assembly’s constituency PP-84 Khushab.

In this context, Provincial Election Commissioner Punjab Ghulam Israr Khan directed ECP’s District Monitoring Officer (DMO) for PP-84 Khushab Rai Sultan Bhatti to initiate action over any violation of ECP’s code of conduct in the said constituency.

Apart from that, Prime Minister Imran Khan has reiterated his government’s commitment to introduce electoral reforms in the country with the use of technology, saying the same would bring transparency in the electoral process and improve its credibility.

“In Karachi’s constituency NA-249, all political parties are crying foul despite low turnout.

That is why the government is committed to bring electoral reforms with the use of technology,” the PM said in a statement earlier on Sunday.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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