The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Thursday postponed by-elections in various constituencies of Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa citing the unavailability of security personnel in the wake of catastrophic floods across the country.
According to an ECP statement, by-elections in the constituencies of NA-157 Multan, NA-22 Mardan, NA-24 Charsadda, NA-31 Peshawar, NA-45 Kurram, NA-108 Faisalabad, NA-118 Nankana Sahib and Karachi’s NA-237, NA-239 and NA-246 have been postponed.
Similarly, by-polls in the Punjab Assembly constituencies PP-139 Sheikhupura, PP-241 Bahawalnagar and PP-209 Khanewal have been delayed until further notice.
The decision was made during a meeting presided over by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja.
The NA seats had fallen vacant after Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf accepted the resignations of PTI MNAs on July 28, sparking controversy over the piecemeal acceptance of resignations.
The lawmakers whose resignations were ratified were part of more than 120 who had resigned from their NA seats en masse on April 11 two days after former prime minister Imran Khan was ousted from the top office in a no-confidence vote.
Subsequently, the PTI chief announced that he would be the lone contender for all nine NA seats in a bid to set a record.
During the meeting, the election commission’s secretary said that the recent floods have wreaked massive destruction in Punjab, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Sindh, damaging houses, buildings, schools, hospitals and highways.
The ECP statement noted that all security agencies in the country, including police, Rangers and army, were busy conducting relief and rescue operations. “The ECP, on August 23, wrote a letter to the Interior Ministry seeking services of the Pakistan Army, Rangers and constabulary to ensure peaceful elections but because of the national emergency, it hasn’t been assured of the deployment.”
Separately, it said that the security situation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had become critical in recent days due to an increase in attacks on the security forces.
“Hence, the election commission has decided to postpone polling in all the constituencies,” the electoral body said, adding that the announcement for the new date of polling will be made once the security agencies were available. Separately, Foreign Minister and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari on Thursday took to his official Twitter account and questioned the special treatment being meted out to PTI Chairman and former prime minister Imran Khan.
“How long will IK (Imran Khan) remain ladla (favourite)?” he said in a tweet.
He added that PPP Multan and Karachi candidates are frustrated by the sudden postponement of the by-elections. “They are eager to start serving their constituents who have been left without representation for too long. No need to allow PTI to run away from elections at the eleventh hour,” he added.