ISLAMABAD - Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Justice (retired) Sardar Raza Khan has expressed dissatisfaction over the postponement of polls in some union councils in Punjab and Sindh blaming Returning Officers (ROs) for the mistakes in ballot papers that caused the crisis.

In this regard, a meeting of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was held yesterday to discuss the shortcomings and problems faced during the 1st phase of Local Government elections in Punjab and Sindh and to review arrangements for the second phase of the polls in both provinces as well as Islamabad Capital Territory.

During the first spell of the polls held on October 31, elections could not be held in certain wards of at least 20 union councils (UCs) in Punjab and six in Sindh because of various reasons including printing of the incorrect election symbols and candidates’ names.

Sources in ECP said that the preparation of ‘proof’ or ‘dummy’ ballot papers was the sole responsibility of ROs concerned before passing on the paper to the Printing Corporation of Pakistan.

They said the ROs are required to carefully go through the specimen of ballot papers by checking candidates’ names and election symbols.

“Some ballot papers that were erroneously printed mentioned election symbols against candidates of opposite parties. Some ballot papers mentioned one candidate more than twice with totally opposite symbols,” the sources said.

The sources said the CEC termed it a ‘blunder’ and not mistake as the carelessness of ROs earned bad repute for the ECP.

They said the conduct of polls was the constitutional duty of the ECP adding the postponement of LG polls in dozens of union councils was evidence that the commission has failed to perform its duty diligently.

In Sindh, polling on account of mistakes in ballot papers could not take place in Jacobabad, Ghotki and Qamber-Shahdadkot districts while in Punjab, the districts where polls were postponed not take place in certain wards include Lahore, Faisalabad, Gujrat, Bhakkar, Kasur, Nankana Sahib, Vehari and Bahawalnagar.

The meeting was attended by all four members of the ECP, Secretary and provincial election commissions (PECs) of Sindh and Punjab.

The Secretary ECP apprised the meeting about the overall situation of 1st phase of LG elections in Punjab and Sindh while separate presentations were given by the senior staff of the commission.

While the meeting was told that overall election concluded successfully in both the provinces, it was emphasizes however, that the mistakes committed in the first phase shall not be repeated in the second and third phases of the exercise.

The sources privy to the meeting told The Nation that 30 percent of ballot papers had so far been printed for the second phase of polls scheduled to be held on November 19. The officials were directed to ensure that the required number of ballot papers is printed timely.

Later, a statement issued by the ECP said that Additional Secretary (Training) told the meeting about the training conducted so far that will be continued for the 2nd and 3rd phases.

It said the PEC Punjab and Sindh highlighted the success and hurdles faced during the 1st phase and recommended appropriate suggestions to overcome these hurdles.

Moreover, the CEC directed Secretary ECP and all concerned officials to take immediate steps for overcoming the hurdles and shortcomings so that the upcoming phases could be conducted in a better manner.