PHC orders local body polls in Hazara division after Eidul Fitr

ABBOTTABAD: The Peshawar High Court’s Abbottabad Circuit Bench set aside the schedule of second phase of local government elections in five snowbound districts of Hazara division and directed the Election Commission of Pakistan to hold polls in Torghar, Battagram, Mansehra, Abbottabad and Kohistan after Eidul Fitr instead of March 27.

The short order comes over five identical petitions filed with the bench comprising Ibrahim Khan and Justice Shakil Ahmad on Jan 26.

The petitioners included former Judbah tehsil nazim Haji Mohammad Khan, Malik Aurangzeb of Dobair area in Kohistan, Mohammad Iqbal of Kolai-Palas tehsil and others.

Office-bearers of the ruling PTI in the districts of Lower and Upper Chitral have already approached the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) seeking postponement of the local government elections scheduled to be held on March 27 till May-June due to harsh weather conditions.

The ECP has announced that the second phase of LG elections in 17 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will be on March 27.

The districts include Abbottabad, Mansehra, Battagram, Torghar, Upper and Lower Kohistan, Kolai-Palas, Kohistan, Swat, Malakand, Shangla, Lower Dir, Lower and Upper Chitral, Kurram, Orakzai, North and South Waziristan.

First phase of the elections were held on Dec 19, 2021, in 17 districts, including Buner, Bajaur, Swabi, Peshawar, Nowshera, Kohat, Karak, Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu, Tank, Haripur, Khyber, Mohmand, Charsadda, Hangu and Lakki Marwat.

Nasir Aslam, lawyer for petitioners, said the petitions were filed under Article 199 of the Constitution with the chief election commissioner of Pakistan, provincial chief secretary, Secretary Coordination Unit, the Local Government Election and Rural Development Government department as respondents.

He said his clients requested the court to set aside the schedule issued by the CEC for the second LG election phase as 65 per cent of Hazara region districts would be shut by heavy snow in March and that the voters would struggle to reach polling stations due to severe cold and snow-covered roads and passages.

The counsel said a double bench set aside the schedule of elections in snow-bound areas of Hazara division and directed the ECP to reschedule the electoral exercise after Eidul Fitr, the post-Ramazan festival, which was likely to be marked in the first week of May.

According to the election schedule announced by the ECP, the returning officers will issue a public notice on Feb 4 seeking nomination papers to be followed by the filing of those papers from Feb 7 to Feb 11. The list of nominated candidates will be released next day.

The returning officers will scrutinise nomination papers from Feb 14 to Feb 16, while appeals against acceptance or rejection of nomination papers will be filed from Feb 17 to Feb 19.

The last date for deciding appeals by the appellate tribunal is Feb 22. The revised list of candidates is to be published on Feb 23, whereas the last date for the withdrawal of candidature and publication of revised list is Feb 25.

The candidates will be allotted election symbols and the publication of their final list will be issued on Feb 28.

Published in Dawn, February 2nd, 2022

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