ISLAMABAD - The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday dismissed the Punjab government’s request to postpone by-election on NA-149 Multan and allowed deployment of Rangers in the constituency during the by-poll.

The Punjab government sought postponement of the by-election due to the security situation in the city following the Qasim Bagh tragedy. The election commission held that the situation was fine and preparations had been completed.

After listening to both the parties, the ECP said the by-election would be held on its scheduled date of October 16.

The by-election on NA-149, Multan, is being held as the seat was vacated following the resignation of Javed Hashmi.

The Punjab government’s application was filed three days after seven people were killed and 40 others wounded in a stampede in Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s huge rally in the city.

Responding to the Punjab government’s move, PTI Vice President Shah Mehmood Qureshi termed it ‘tactics’ to delay the election.

“The elections should be held timely, there is no justification for it. It’s the election commission’s constitutional responsibility to hold polls according to the schedule. Such a decision will hurt the commission’s credibility,” Qureshi said in his early reaction.

Shah Mahmood Qureshi asked the people to stage sit-ins at every crossing of Multan against this move of the provincial government. He alleged the Punjab government was trying to get the elections postponed in collaboration with the Election Commission.

Meanwhile, Supreme Court Chief Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk on Monday detached himself from a bench hearing the case pertaining to electoral reforms.

“Technically, it will be inappropriate to hear the case since I was performing my duty as acting chief election commissioner at the time when the Election Commission of Pakistan submitted this petition in the Supreme Court,” the CJP observed.

The CJP issued directives for hearing of the case before any other bench. The new bench will hear the same case on November 10.

KP issues biometric system

ordinance

Online adds from Peshawar: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government has transferred the powers of delimitation for electoral units to Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday. An ordinance has been issued for holding elections under biometric system and for transferring the authority of delimitation process to the ECP.

Speaking to a private news channel, KP Advocate General Latif Yousafzai said the provincial government had completed the legislative work related to delimitation of electoral units. He asserted an ordinance had been issued for the transfer of provincial delimitation authority to the ECP and for holding local body elections under biometric system. The ordinance came into effect from October 10.

ECP starts moving to

electronic vote count

Inamullah Khattak adds from Islamabad: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has invited 11 vendors for a meeting on Wednesday in order to finalize introduction of electronic voting machines (EVMs) in elections.

Sources told The Nation that the vendors would be asked to manufacture EVMs according to the specifications given by ECP on September 30 during a demonstration by the vendors.

These vendors include COMSTATS, Telephone Industries of Pakistan (TIP), National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA), KRL, National Institute of Electronics (NIE), Smartmatic and one foreign company-Indra.

The meeting will be attended by senior officers of ECP including Director General IT Khizar Aziz for finalizing companies ahead of manufacturing the feasible EVMs for next elections.

The sources said that the ECP needed over 200,000 machines on 150,000 polling booths across the country adding that the meeting will discuss the technical and financial aspects of the voting machines.

The ECP needs legislation before introducing EVMs in next elections for which the commission has recommended to Electoral Reforms Committee about making legislation and empowering the ECP to appoint, transfer or suspend polling staff after announcement of election schedule.

However, the sources said that the major challenges ECP faced at present was about how to tackle litigation cases in case of any error in EVMs or what to do in case the system is hacked during polling day.

The EVMs would identify voters and can count votes automatically thus saving billions of money that is spent on printing of ballot papers, however, the ECP needs over 200,000 trained polling staff for operating these machines.

In order to tackle litigation cases, the ECP has requested the government to increase the number of election tribunals to 28 from 14 in order to hear and dispose of election related petitions once the EVMs are introduced.

The ECP also wants Representative of People’s Act (ROPA) 1976 amended in order to appoint serving judges of high courts as heads of election tribunals for hearing election petitions. At present the retired judges of high courts are heading 14 election tribunals.

ECP officials said that once the specifications of EVMs are finalized, NADRA would be asked to feed data into the machines that would enable an EVM to identify voters, constituencies and count results.

“We will need two years to introduce EVM. It took 22 years for India to hold elections under EVM. We have made progress on the new system very quickly. Things would get more clear after we hold a meeting with vendors,” Khurshid Alam, Deputy Director PR told The Nation on Monday.

Wednesday’s meeting with vendors would also discuss the possible threats of hacking of EVMs and other challenges in case the machines fail to perform during polling day.