Govt seeks 90-day delay in by-elections citing PTI’s plan to ‘besiege’ capital

ISLAMABAD: The federal government Friday asked the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to delay the upcoming October 16 by-election, saying that a “political party” was planning to “besiege” the capital later this month.

The by-elections were originally scheduled to be held during September, but the ECP put them off, citing the unavailability of security personnel in the wake of catastrophic floods — that have left over 1,700 dead.

“On the basis of credible reports from Intelligence Agencies, it has transpired that a political party is planning to besiege the federal capital between October 12-17 […] which coincides with the [election] date,” a letter from the Interior Ministry to the ECP said in an apparent reference to the PTI.

PTI Chairman Imran Khan has announced holding his “Azadi March” in the capital and has started mobilising his party. The ex-prime minister has held several meetings and organised rallies at different points in the country in the lead-up to the march.

In light of the intelligence reports, the Interior Ministry said it was crucial to have all the available resources in the capital in order to maintain peace.

Citing other reasons, the ministry said that calling in the forces to ensure security during the by-elections — which will take place simultaneously in different cities across Pakistan — would put a “strain” on them.

The letter mentioned that the Pakistan Army, Frontier Corps, Rangers, and other LEAs were busy in flood-relief works in coordination with the national and provincial disaster management authorities.

It also told the commission that, in case, the elections were conducted under the given circumstances — whereby security forces might be less than required and a political party was holding a rally — it would raise questions on the credibility of the polls.

The elections were scheduled to take place in eight constituencies — NA-22 Mardan, NA-24 Charsadda, NA-31 Peshawar, NA-45 Kurram, NA-108 Faisalabad, NA-118 Nankana Sahib, NA-237 Malir and NA-239 Karachi.

The ECP announced October 16 as the date for the by-elections after eight National Assembly seats were vacated following the acceptance of PTI MNAs’ resignations.

The ECP has directed the Sindh government to hold local body elections in Karachi and Hyderabad divisions after the province sought postponement for the third time citing a lack of security personnel.

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