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ECP cancels Sanghar by-polls after DC ‘sent on leave’

ISLAMABAD: Sindh’s provincial government, still reeling from the scandal surrounding Inspector General of Police A.D. Khowaja’s dramatic removal and reinstatement a few days ago, is now facing fresh criticism for sending Sanghar Deputy Commissioner Umar Farooq Bullo on leave amid preparations for a by-election in PS-81 (Sanghar-cum-Mirpurkhas-II).

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) cancelled the PS-81 by-election scheduled to be held on April 20 on Wednesday and took notice of Mr Bullo’s leave. The ECP also summoned the Sindh services secretary on April 7 (Friday) to explain why the deputy commissioner had been sent away.

Media reports suggested that although it appeared as if the deputy commissioner had gone on leave, in fact he had been forced to leave his office by the provincial government on March 20. The reports suggested that the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party had felt that Mr Bullo would not be partial to their candidate in the PS-81 by-polls.

Several members of civil society had also staged a demonstration in Sanghar to protest against what they believed was a forced removal of the deputy commissioner. They claimed that the deputy commissioner had not taken a personal leave but had been forced to vacate his office.

An ECP spokesperson said in an official statement on Wednesday that the commission had taken serious notice of Mr Bullo’s transfer/leave notified after receiving the schedule for the by-poll.

The deputy commissioner had also been appointed the district returning officer (DRO) for local government (LG) by-elections in the district.

The spokesperson said that the ECP had directed the provincial government to cancel the deputy commissioner’s leave and direct him to join his duty. However, the provincial government is yet to comply.

“The ECP has postponed the by-election in PS-81 as well as the local government by-elections in Sanghar district and issued notice of contempt to the provincial services secretary, and summoned him on April 7, to appear before the election commission to clarify as to why the directions of the commission were violated,” the spokesperson said.

Many attempts were made to contact the “removed” Sanghar deputy commissioner but he was not available for comments.

According to Dawn’s correspondent Housh Muhammad Mangi in Sanghar, members of civil society, who had staged the demonstration against the deputy commissioner’s “removal”, described Mr Bullo as a dedicated and kind officer. They also claimed that the PPP had believed that Mr Bullo would not have helped their candidates, contesting the local government elections and by-polls, win.

According to ECP rules, no government official, especially if designated district returning officer, can be removed after the commission announces the election schedule in the constituency.

The PPP has fielded Jam Madad Ali as its candidate for PS-81. Mr Ali had left the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional and joined the PPP recently. He was a member of the provincial assembly from the same constituency but had resigned from office after joining the PPP.

Mr Ali is now contesting for the same provincial assembly seat, on the PPP’s ticket. He had earlier served as the leader of the opposition in the Sindh Assembly.

Courtesy : Dawn News

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