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Photo Source: Dawn

Pakistan Reader# 518, 16 January 2023

Sindh LG polls: Between delays and boycotts



ECP asks the parties to wait for the poll results and says “it’s a complicated process which takes time”

Abigail Miriam Fernandez

On 15 January, the Local Government elections were finally held in Karachi and Hyderabad in a largely peaceful manner with sporadic incidents of violence and claims of rigging by political parties. According to media reports, the voter turnout remained low, however, the actual figures are yet to be disclosed. According to unofficial results, the PPP had secured a majority of the seats in Hyderabad, while there was no clear result on the polls in Karachi.

Where were the polls being conducted?
The polling was conducted in 16 districts of Sindh including; East, West, South, Central, Korangi, Keamari, and Malir of the Karachi division; and Hyderabad, Dadu, Jamshoro, Matiari, Tando Muhammad Khan, Tando Allahyar, Badin, Sujawal, and Thatta of the Hyderabad division. A total of 17,862 candidates took part in the elections, of which 9,057 were in Karachi, 6,228 in Hyderabad and 2,577 in Thatta district. The polls were being conducted due to the deaths of 23 candidates and the election of seven candidates unopposed in seven Karachi districts, polling was held on 1,200 out of the 1,230 seats of chairman, vice chairman and ward member.

The second phase of the LG polls in Sindh was initially scheduled for 24 July 2022 but was postponed due to the rains and flooding in the country. The ECP rescheduled the elections for 28 August but there were unable to conduct the polls due to the floods. Later, on 22 November, the ECP announced that the polls will be conducted on 15 January 2023.

Why did the MQM-P withdraw from the polls?
Just before the polling began, the MQM-P announced that it will boycott the LG polls in Karachi and Hyderabad after the ECP rejected its demands for changes in delimitations. The MQM-P “rejected” the polls stating that Karachi was “deprived of 70 union councils.” PML-Q leader Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui said that “neither the voter's list nor the delimitations and arrangements for the elections are appropriate,” adding that they had waited till the last minute for the election commission to “right the wrongs” and do justice but to no avail. The MQM-P has been rallying against the “biased delimitation of constituencies” and called for new delimitations before the LG polls in Karachi and Hyderabad.

According to the MQM-P’s barrister, under the Local Government Act Section 10, Subsection 1, the provincial government has determined the constituencies for the polls but it the constituencies have a disproportional population. The barrister said that the constituencies where the MQM-P vote bank consists of 90,000 people while the other consists of only 20,000 stating that this was ‘injustice’ to the people. As a result of the delimitation, the MQM-P vote bank was downsized to three times.

Why did the PPP want to delay the polls?
The PPP agreed to delay the polls mainly to keep the alliance with the MQM-P intact. The alliance is of grave importance to the PPP because of the challenge posed by the PTI and JI joining the political scene in Karachi. The MQM-P has a significant presence in urban Sindh, particularly in Karachi and Hyderabad where the PPP’s presence is being challenged. Thus, the PPP required the MQM-P to rally in these regions.

What is the controversy over the delay in election results?
On 16 January, the ECP in response to the allegations over the delay in poll results stated, “this is a complicated process and it takes time to prepare the result of one union council.” The ECP announced that the results were being transferred to the offices of returning officers from all polling stations, saying, “Each union council (UC) consists of four wards and around 20 polling stations, and the final result of a UC remains incomplete if a result sheet of even one polling station is left.”

This statement came after the PTI and JI alleged that the results of the polls were deliberately being delayed in Karachi. The PTI blamed the PPP, provincial administration and the ECP of wrongdoing, warning that any attempt to “change the results” after voting would lead to a strong reaction. Similarly, the JI said that results were deliberately being delayed “to manage things.” Meanwhile, the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) rejected the election and called for an “immediate intervention” of the state institutions. The alliance also blamed the ECP for facilitating the ruling PPP in rigging and violation of the code of conduct. In response, the PPP accused the PTI of violating the rules in an attempt to sabotage the elections, mainly in Karachi.

References
‘Peaceful’ Sindh local polls marred by ‘low turnout’,” Dawn, 16 January 2022
ECP advises patience over Sindh LG poll results, says it’s a ‘complicated process and takes time’,” Dawn, 16 January 2022
MQM-P withdraws from local government elections in Karachi, Hyderabad,” Dawn, 14 January 2022
Imran Ayub, “Delay in results, rigging claims put question mark on LG polls,” Dawn, 16 January 2022
MQM’s LG boycott,” Pak Observer, 16 January 2022
MQM-P reiterates call for new delimitation ahead of LG polls,” Pak Observer, 16 January 2022

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