ISLAMABAD - The Election Commission of Pakistan has been ordered to explain its decision to stage the Local Government elections in three phases.

The ruling was made amid concerns that the decision may have been politically motivated to benefit the ruling party.

The ECP has insisted its decision is aimed at minimising the effects of floods throughout the country on the polling.

Munir Paracha advocate, representing ECP, told the Supreme Court bench yesterday that since the floods are affecting many areas in Punjab and Sindh, the commission can’t hold the elections in one go. His reply was dismissed as “unsatisfactory” by Justice Jawwad S Khawaja, heading the bench. “On 13 hearings, on different dates, the provincial governments had assured the Commission to hold the LB polls, but without success. There is no statistical data in the report, which is empirically based,” he added.

The court directed the ECP to submit the empirical data on 18th August. Justice Dost Muhammad expressed surprise that local bodies elections were held during periods of dictatorship but the democratic governments always seemed reluctant to hold them.  The court expressed great concern that in the last six years local government elections could not be held in Sindh and the Punjab despite it being a constitutional requirement. 

The bench appreciated that the LB polls were held in Khyber Pukhtoonkhawa, Balochistan and the Cantonment Boards, while rules and laws have been framed for organizing polls in Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT). It hoped the schedule for LB elections in ICT would soon be presented.

The elections were to be held in Punjab and Sindh on 26th September, but on July 29 the ECP filed an application to delay the elections.

The court stated they have examined the report by the election commission but did not find reasonable justification for delay. s

The application gave a general and non-specific basis for delaying and staging the polls in phases, which was termed unsatisfactory by the justices.

“If the alteration is required in the Court Order, passed in April this year, then there should be concrete and empirical data, which includes every area of provinces, where LB polls are not possible due to floods,” observed the court. 

Later, the court directed the ECP to place the empirical data on 18th August and deferred the case.