The local government elections — scheduled for January 15 — will not be held in Karachi, Hyderabad, and Dadu, Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon announced early Friday, drawing strong condemnation from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI).
In a press conference, the information minister said that the decision was taken after the Sindh government withdrew the notification regarding the delimitations of the constituencies in Karachi as the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) has reservations over it.
"They (MQM-P) are our allies in the federal government and we take the concerns of our allies very seriously," the minister said, ruling out that the decision was taken under duress.
The development comes after the provincial cabinet, with Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah in the chair, held a late-night meeting after the MQM-P threatened that it would not allow the local body polls to take place.
The second round of LG elections was scheduled to take place on July 24 last year, but the Sindh government excused itself from holding the polls over the lack of security and police presence due to the flooding. Later, the elections were also postponed on August 28, October 23, and today, the announcement was made for January 15 — making it the fourth time that the polls have been put off.
As the "rebranded" MQM-P factions united on Thursday, the party's convener, Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, had also warned that if their reservations regarding the local body polls were not addressed, then they would "fight" for their "rights".
In the presser, later on, the information minister noted that despite the polls being delayed in the three districts, the elections will go on as scheduled in Tando Allahyar, Badin, Sujawal, Thatta, Tando Muhammad Khan, Matiari, Jamshoro.
“The Sindh government is ready to hold polls in these districts and the people in them should gear up for the elections. No delay in elections will be made in these districts,” Memon said.
Defending the decision to not hold the polls, there was a lack of police personnel to be deployed at the polling stations, while the army, through the General Headquarters (GHQ), had also excused itself — given the situation on the border and militancy.
For the representatives that have already been elected in the first phase and will be elected in the second phase, the information minister said the Sindh cabinet would meet once again tomorrow at 11am to decide when the oath-taking ceremony will take place for them.
In response to a question that a similar situation took place during the recently postponed Islamabad local body polls, Memon said: “The election commission has its rules of business and so do the honourable courts and we will also have to see what they decide.”
The information minister, defending the decision to delay the polls two days before it was due, said the government could not decide since the matters were sub judice and the institutions were hearing cases regarding it.
“Also, MQM-P has been our ally and they are our allies still in the federal government, so definitely, when they have their grievances, we will try to facilitate them on our level,” Memon said.
Shortly after the announcement, an MQM-P delegation reached the Chief Minister’s House to thank the Sindh government for following through on the party’s demand to delay the local body polls.
The MQM-P delegation was led by Farooq Sattar and included Wasim Akhtar, Faisal Subazwari, and Mustafa Kamal. Meanwhile, Sindh Local Government Minister Nasir Hussain Shah, Sindh Minister Food Mukesh Kumar Chawla, Provincial Minister Taimur Talpur, and Sindh government spokesperson Murtaza Wahab were also in attendance.