Provincial Election Commissioner Saeed Gul said on Monday that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), being a constitutional institution, could not be pressurised through interference in holding of the local government elections in the province.
Addressing a press conference at the Provincial Election Commission Office, he said that the delimitation process pertaining to the local government elections in Punjab was in progress, adding that initial delimitation lists had been issued on January 7, 2023. He said any objections could be submitted from January 9 to January 23 to the delimitation authorities. The authorities would make a decision on the objections till February 9, 2023, he added. The final delimitation list would be issued till February 12, 2023, he said.
The provincial election commissioner said that the ECP had issued schedule of delimitation on Dec 8 regarding holding of local government elections in Punjab besides forming committees for delimitation, adding that demarcation committees had completed delimitation process as per Section 10 and 11 of the Punjab Local Government Act, 2022.
Saeed Gul said that the ECP, after consultation with all stakeholders, had issued the demarcation schedule as the ECP always performed its tasks including electoral process with responsibility and as per law.
The provincial election commissioner said that the ECP had always given proper chance to all stakeholders to raise objections, adding that the due process was followed before displaying the initial delimitation lists. The initial demarcation lists had been displayed at the district election commissions’ offices, he added. Before the start of delimitation process for the local government elections, the Punjab government was approached many times to identify the strength of union councils; however, the provincial government enacted a law to form a union council as per population base of 25,000; however, a representative of provincial government was also part of the delimitation committees, he added.
Saeed Gul said that the ECP had increased number of union councils in Rawalpindi and its adjoining areas as the provincial government made most of the rural areas part of Rawalpindi in 2019. The 25,000 population threshold for a union council, set by the provincial government, was implemented by the ECP after which the number of union councils in Rawalpindi had increased.
Regarding the union councils in Murree, he said that the union councils’ strength was greater as it was a municipal corporation in 2015, but now it has become a district council after which its union council’s number has decreased to 14 UCs as per the 25,000 population base criteria, he explained.
To a question, he said that the delimitation process for local governments was independent and impartial, adding that some elements were trying to hatch propaganda about delimitation and impartial role of the ECP for political gains.
To another query, Saeed Gul said that every political party was equal to the ECP as it had no affiliation with anyone and it always performed tasks as per law and Constitution, he concluded.
Meanwhile, the ECP on Monday rejected the allegations of Punjab government’s Spokesman Fayyazul Hassan Chohan that the commission had issued a unilateral notification of new delimitation of union councils in the province without taking the local administrations on board.
An ECP spokesman, in a news statement, said the persons having objections over delimitations “can file their pleas to the delimitation authorities”.
Urging to avoid irresponsible statements, he categorically said the ECP would continue working in accordance with the constitution.
He clarified that tough the local people were not included in the delimitation process, they had the right to file objections on preliminary delimitations of constituencies.
The spokesman said Chohan had tried not only to mislead the people of Punjab but also leveled baseless and false allegations against the commission. “According to Section 10 of Punjab Local Government Act, 2022, delimitation is the sole responsibility of the ECP,” he added.
“The ECP has no powers to increase or decrease the number of union councils. [The] ECP has conducted delimitation in accordance with an average population of 25,000 each.”
Fayyazul Hassan Chohan, in his statement, had threatened of taking legal action against the commission, which, he alleged, had unilaterally increased the number of union councils of Metropolitan Corporation Rawalpindi from 46 to 78 on its own, and also enhanced the number of UCs of district councils from 34 to 70 (each).