ECP gears up for presidential polls

Election Commission of Pakistan. (Photo courtesy: APP)
Updated 03 September 2018

ECP gears up for presidential polls

  • Polling booths have been set up in all four provinces
  • A doctor, a lawyer and a religious scholar in the running for the hot seat

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said on Monday that it has completed preparations for presidential elections to be conducted in four provinces on Tuesday.  

Sardar Raza Khan, the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC), will serve as the returning officer while chief justices of all four high courts will act as the presiding officers during the polls. 

Polling stations have been set up in four provincial assemblies, including the national assembly. Ballot boxes have been moved to the poll booths with the ECP issuing a code of conduct for the same.

The CEC, on Monday, directed the presiding officers to ensure the secrecy of the ballot with members of the national assembly (MNA), provincial assemblies or senate being barred “from taking any electronic devices inside the premises”.

In the running for the president’s office is Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf’s (PTI) candidate Dr Arif Alvi who will compete against Pakistan Peoples Party’s Aitzaz Ahsan and Jamiat-e-Ulema (F) chief Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman for the top office.

Political pundits predicted Dr Alvi would win the polls after the opposition failed to reach a consensus, fielding two candidates instead of one.   

A dentist by profession, Alvi is one of the founding members of the PTI and was nominated by the party as its candidate on August 18. During the general elections of 1997 and 2002, Alvi was appointed as the secretary general of the party. He won again in the 2013 general elections after contesting from Karachi’s NA-250  constituency and was later as the president of PTI’s Sindh wing. This year, too, Alvi was elected from Karachi’s NA- 247. 

After vigorously protesting Rehman’s nomination, the PPP on August 19 fielded Ahsan as its candidate. Ahsan submitted his nomination papers to the Islamabad High Court on August 26. A renowned lawyer and politician, he has been elected to the senate three times. The 72-year-old’s political journey began in the 1970s when he first joined the party. In November 2007, after General (retd) Pervaiz Musharraf deposed the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Chaudhry Iftikhar, Ahsan was a frontman in the agitation leading to the restoration of the CJP. 

On August 27, the grand opposition alliance fielded Rehman as its candidate. Speaking to the media on Sunday, the 76-year-old firebrand scholar thanked the opposition parties for their vote of support. 

More than 700 votes will be cast during the presidential elections, with 342 of them slotted for ministers of the national assembly and 104 for senators. Each provincial assembly has also been allocated 65 votes.

India, Pakistan said to sign Kartarpur agreement on Wednesday

Updated 22 October 2019

India, Pakistan said to sign Kartarpur agreement on Wednesday

  • The project is a rare recent example of diplomatic cooperation between the two South Asian rivals
  • New Delhi says “disappointed” by Pakistan’s decision of “levying a service fee of $20 per pilgrim per visit”

LAHORE: India has decided to sign the Kartarpur Corridor agreement on October 23, said an official statement issued by New Delhi’s External Affairs Ministry on Monday, even though it expressed its disappointment over Pakistan’s decision to levy $20 service fee per pilgrims and asked Islamabad to reconsider it.

“In view of the long pending demand of the pilgrims to have visa-free access to Gurudwara Kartarpur Sahib and in the interest of operationalization of the corridor in time before the Guru Nanak’s birth anniversary on November 12, the government on Monday conveyed [to Pakistan] that India would be ready to sign the agreement on the corridor on Wednesday,” the statement said.

Pakistan is all set to open the world’s largest Sikh temple to pilgrims and the public on Nov. 9, as construction work on the Kartarpur corridor enters its final stages, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced on his official Facebook page on Sunday.

The visa-free border crossing from India to Kartarpur in Pakistan will be inaugurated just ahead of one of Sikhism’s most sacred festivals, and the 550th birthday of the religion’s founder, Guru Nanak on Nov. 12.

“Pakistan is all set to open its doors for Sikhs from all across the globe, as the construction work on the Kartarpur project enters final stages and will be open to the public on 9th November 2019,” the Prime Minister said on Facebook.

He added: “World’s largest Gurdwara will be visited by Sikhs from across India and other parts of the world.”

However, India’s official statement on Monday said it was “a matter of disappointment” that Pakistan continued “to insist on levying a service fee of $20 per pilgrim per visit.”

The Kartarpur project is a rare recent example of diplomacy between the two South Asian rivals, who came to the brink of war in February this year. In August, relations were further inflamed when India flooded its portion of the disputed Kashmir valley with troops, imposed a communications lockdown and revoked the special legal status of the territory.

Since then, diplomatic relations between the two countries have been virtually non-existent, with Pakistan recalling its envoy from India and banning bilateral trade.

But for the Sikh minority population in India’s northern state of Punjab and elsewhere, the diplomatic overture from Pakistan will come as a relief. The community has long sought easier access to the temple in Kartarpur, a village just 4 km over the border in Pakistan, and which otherwise requires a lengthy visa and travel process.

Instead of visas, Sikh and other pilgrims will now be given special permits to access the shrine, with online registration from the Indian interior ministry live on Sunday.

Indian Punjab’s Chief Minister, Amarinder Singh, has invited the leaders of all Indian political parties to join him to cross the border to the Gurdwara for the opening ceremony.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will inaugurate the Indian side of the corridor but it is yet unclear whether he will cross into Pakistan following the event.

Indian pilgrims will pay Pakistan $20 to use the corridor, which includes roadways, a bridge over the Ravi River and an immigration office, with up to 5,000 Indians to be allowed access daily.