LAHORE: Justice Shams Mehmood Mirza of Lahore High Court dismissed a petition filed by local government officials who challenged the ban on their participation in campaigning for General Elections on July 25. The court found that the petition was non-maintainable.
Chairman of UC-76 and Deputy Mayor Ijaz filed the petition, saying it was the legal and basic right of any citizen to take part in election activities. He added the Political Parties Act also permits such activities. The counsel for the petitioner said that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), through a notification, banned representatives of local governments from political activities in the upcoming general elections. He submitted that it went against the basics of human rights and every citizen should be allowed to take party in political activities.
The counsel asked the court to set the ban aside as it was illegal. He urged the judge to allow the elected local government officials to take part in election activities. However, the LHC dismissed the petition as being non-maintainable.
Following opposition parties’ complaints about abuse of powers, Punjab’s Local Government and Community Development (LGCD) department barred all local government representatives from participating in political activities and electioneering.
Earlier, an LGCD spokesperson said that the department issued a notification to implement the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) Code of Conduct for the 2018 general elections. The department barred all mayors, deputy mayors, chairmen, vice-chairmen and other elected public representatives of the Metropolitan Corporation, district councils, municipal corporations and municipal committees from participating or cooperating in the electioneering of any political party or candidate across Punjab.
He further highlighted that the commission had forwarded 68 complaints on different violations of the code by government officers and officials. The LGCD department resolved these complaints by taking necessary action., he claimed.
Before the ban, opposition parties had already demanded that the ECP to suspend or cease the powers of local governments. They pointed that former ruling party Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), which had the majority in local governments across the province, was using the machinery to influence the election process.
Contesting candidates of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q) and other opposition parties complained that local government representatives were using their position and state resources for PML-N’s election campaign. They added that such a practice was a huge violation of the ECP code of conduct.
PTI candidate for NA-130 Shafqat Mahmood said his party had demanded that the commission suspend the powers of all local government till polling day on July 25.
Court dismisses voter’s plea
Meanwhile, the same division bench dismissed another petition filed by a voter for NA-115. The petitioner challenged the acceptance of former minister Shaikh Waqas Akram’s nomination papers by the relevant returning officer.
The petitioner, Imran, contended that Shaikh Waqas Akram concealed the truth from the election commission about his academic qualifications. He alleged that the certificate produced by the candidate was forged.
He claimed Akram did not meet the criteria to stand for election as prescribed by articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution. He added that the RO accepted his nomination papers and Akram was also allowed to contest polls by an appellate tribunal despite the fact that he is no longer “sadiq and amen”. He prayed the court set aside the orders and bar the candidate from contesting the polls. However, the court dismissed the petition, saying it was not-maintainable.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2018.