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Protests break out in Pakistan against poll panel's decision to postpone Karachi election

ANI | Updated: Jul 23, 2022 17:51 IST

Karachi [Pakistan], July 23 (ANI): Several opposition parties in Pakistan staged protests on Friday against the Election Commission's decision to put off local government elections in Karachi and Hyderabad, which they said was a "blow to democracy." They vowed to raise their voice against the "conspiracy hatched by the ruling parties to escape from an imminent defeat in the crucial polls".
The Jamaat-i-Islami took out a number of rallies from parts of the city after Friday prayers. The workers of the right-wing party gathered outside the Sindh High Court building in Saddar where they staged a protest demonstration, the Dawn reported.
Carrying party flags, placards and banners, the protesters chanted slogans against the ECP decision and raised slogans against the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party, accusing it of the conspiracy behind the constitutional body's move.
Addressing the demonstration, JI Karachi chief Hafiz Naeem ur Rehman alleged that the ECP was playing "dubious and rather dirty game".
He said, "On one hand, it failed to remove a political administrator during the campaign for local bodies' polls and on the other, it played the role of a "B team" for the PPP government in Sindh by delaying the crucial polls on the pretext of rains."
"If the rain was the issue, why doesn't the ECP delay the local bodies' polls for a few days," he asked.
He claimed that the delay for one month showed that the ECP was hand in glove with the PPP and Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P).
The Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), an umbrella organisation of five political parties, called for re-election in all four divisions, Sukkur, Larkana, Shaheed Benazirabad and Mirpurkhas of Sindh where the PPP won the majority through "rigging and state power".
Information Secretary of GDA, Sardar Abdul Raheem said, "the conspiracy hatched by the PPP and the ECP had been exposed with the decision to delay the polls in Karachi and Hyderabad as the ruling party after finding it hard to rig the elections in urban centres had used its influence in the constitutional body to delay the process."
He asked the state institutions and judiciary to take notice of 'sheer violation' of electoral procedures in Sindh, the dawn reported.
Sindh United Party president Syed Jalal Mehmood in a statement "condemned" the decision and announced that they would move the court to challenge the fresh schedule of the local bodies' polls in Sindh.
He called it a conspiracy "from the top" to favour the PPP and MQM-P as the decision of the ECP would ultimately strengthen the position of the ruling party over municipal affairs through "its political administrators" and save its partner from "devastating defeat from the province's urban centres".
Meanwhile, amid the criticism from the opposition, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah commented that it was not his government and the party which pushed for the delay in the local government elections in Karachi and Hyderabad.
"Frankly speaking, we were against any delay in the second phase of local government elections," he said.
"We had even told the Election Commission that the provincial government would work to ensure the elections if any of the district receives heavy downpour. I believe that the parties which are staging demonstrations are in fact protesting against the decision of the Election Commission, not the government," he added.
This comes after the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) moved the second phase of the Sindh local government elections from July 24 to August 28 citing "possible rains and bad weather" in the province, the Dawn reported.
According to a statement issued by the electoral watchdog's spokesperson on Wednesday, the by-election for NA-245 (Karachi East-IV) was also rescheduled for August 21 due to weather conditions and Muharram.
The spokesperson said the decision was taken based on the report of Sindh's chief secretary and provincial election commissioner, the public's request and data from the meteorological department.
Notably, the second phase of the local body elections was originally going to be held on July 24 in 16 districts of Karachi and Hyderabad division.
The Met Office said strong monsoon currents were likely to penetrate upper and central parts of the country in the coming days. The monsoon system will remain active in the current week.
It said that urban flooding is expected from July 24 to July 26 in Karachi, Hyderabad, Thatta, Badin, Shaheed Benazirabad, Jamshoro, Mirpurkhas, Dadu, Umer Kot, Jaccobabad, Larkana and Sukkur, the Dawn reported.
Met also warned all concerned authorities to remain alert and take necessary precautionary measures during the forecast period. (ANI)