The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Friday directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to announce the date for local government elections in Karachi and Hyderabad within 15 days and to complete the election process within two months.
“We would not go so far as to dictate the date…but would note that the ECP may notify the polling date, preferably within a period of 15 days from the date of this order,” the court said adding that the polling process preferably conclude the overall exercise “in any event within a total period of 60 days.”
A two member bench headed by Sindh Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M Shaikh and comprising Justice Yousuf Ali Sayeed disposed of the petitions Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) regarding the delays in the local bodies’ elections in Karachi and Hyderabad.
“Allegorically, much water has flowed since the advent of the floods, and it is questionable whether the continued preoccupation of law enforcement personnel in relief operations remains so emergent with the efflux of time as to constitute a valid cause for their being withheld from election duty,” read the 16-page verdict,” read the verdict.
In its verdict the court ordered the Sindh government to provide security and other facilities to the election commission. The judgment mandates that the chief secretary and IG Sindh take necessary actions for the smooth conduct of the elections.
“…indeed, no less is expected, for as cogs in the wheel of democracy, it is their (Sindh government’s) overarching obligation to find a way of advancing the democratic process,” the verdict said.
The bench observed that Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) stance on delaying local bodies’ elections makes no sense and has no logic.
The court in a 16-page written verdict ordered the election commission to announce the polling date within 15 days and to finish the election process within two months.
MQM-P had taken a stand that elections should not be held until the necessary legislation, constituencies, and voters’ lists are corrected.
MQM-P also said that elections should not be held unless local governments and constituencies are given authority.
The MQM's proposals lack a strong argument. Therefore, there is no justification for postponing elections based on this stance.
The bench said Sindh government delayed the polls on pretext of flood and lack of security however the provincial government was supposed to devise a solution after such a lengthy period. The lack of security cannot be used as an excuse to postpone elections continuously.
The petition stated that the government of Sindh is purposefully postponing the issue involving constituencies. Municipal elections must be held within 120 days of the expiry of the term of local bodies.
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It may be recalled that Karachi and Hyderabad were scheduled to hold the second round of municipal elections on July 24.
However, the Sindh administration excused for not providing security due to the flooding and lack of police presence. Following that, the local body elections were rescheduled for August 28.
Moreover the election did not take place on that day, the date was again set as October 23. However, the polls were postponed for the third time. In this regard, the election commission has also reserved its decision regarding local body elections in Karachi.
The Sindh Chief Justice said in the verdict that allegorically, much water has flowed since the advent of the floods, and it is questionable whether the continued preoccupation of law enforcement personnel in relief operations remains so emergent with the efflux of time as to constitute a valid cause for their being withheld from election duty.
He said the election has now been repeatedly postponed for almost four months on that pretext, with a definite future date still not being in sight. Suffice it to say that there has been considerable time for an appropriate solution to have been found
Fighting for ‘empowered LG representatives
Former mayor of Karachi and the deputy convener of MQM Pakistan, Waseem Akhter has said: “We are struggling for the powers of the local body representatives.”
He was talking to the members of party’s coordination committee at the central office in Bahadurabd on Friday.
He said, the decision given by the Sindh High Court (SHC) seems against the empowered local government system. He said that there are flaws and gerrymandering in the voters lists and constituencies because of which we went to the Election Commission and the High Court.”
He sais, “The clear decision of the Supreme Court is that there should be a local authority, but it has not been implemented till date. We are struggling for the powers of the local body representatives. Moreover, we are also fighting for justice.”
Waseem said that on the petitions submitted by PTI and Jamaat-e-Islami, we presented our stand before the court and the decision given by the High Court seems against the local government system.
MQM Pakistan also wants early elections. If constituencies are fixed today, elections should be held tomorrow. We have to strengthen the local councils. We cannot tolerate a system in which the mayor has no powers.
Speaking on the occasion, the deputy convener Khwaja Izharul Hasan said that more than 17 local government departments and civil institutions are not under the mayor. After four years of continuous struggle, the provincial court refused to accept the decision given by the Supreme Court.
‘PPP, MQM scared of defeat’
Khurram Sher Zaman, Parliamentary Leader of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf in the Sindh Assembly, has claimed that the PPP and the MQM do not want local government (LG) elections in the province because the two parties are scared of a “historic defeat.”
While speaking to the media outside the Sindh High Court (SHC) on Friday, Zaman said that the PTI had moved the court two months ago for the conduct of LG elections, but the PPP-led Sindh government has turned the exercise into a spectacle. “The LG elections would put an end to the politics of the two parties,” Zaman claimed.
In the second phase of LG elections in Sindh, balloting has to be held in seven districts of Karachi and nine districts of Hyderabad. However, the exercise has been postponed thrice by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on the request of the Sindh government.
PTI Karachi President Bilal Ghaffar and MPA Firdous Shamim Naqvi also accompanied Zaman at the media talk.
“The Sindh High Court (SHC) has ordered the ECP to announce a LG polls schedule within two weeks,” he said. “We hope that the court orders will be implemented, but we also know that the PPP will again try to make up an excuse to run away from the polls,” he added.
Zaman said that the Sindh police was busy stopping PTI’s long march in Islamabad while more than 100 people have been killed in Karachi this year. He said that if the LG elections are held, then the mayors of Karachi and Hyderabad would be from PTI.”
He accused the PPP and MQM of extending step-motherly treatment to the two major cities like a stepmother.
JI welcomes 'historical decision'
Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Karachi chief Engr Hafiz Naeemur Rehman has welcomed the Sindh High Court's orders to the Election Commission of Pakistan for announcement of date within 15 days for holding local government elections in Karachi.
The JI leader dubbed the verdict as historical while he was addressing a press conference held at Idara Noor-e-Haq, the JI Karachi headquarters, here on Friday. The verdict came as the court issued a detailed ruling on the petition tabled by the JI.
Speaking on the occasion, he demanded of the ECP to issue final date for the polls in accordance with the court orders.
Rehman also demanded of the election commission to bind the PPP government in Sindh to take all necessary in order to hold local government elections as soon as possible.
He said that the ECP has already scheduled to announce the verdict on the same issue on November 22. He recalled that the JI had represented aspirations of Karachiites at a recent hearing by the ECP over local bodies polls in Karachi, whereas, he said, the Pakistan People Party and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan had opposed to holding the local government polls in the city.
Bursting the bubble of the MQM-P narrative, he said that the MQM- wants to get the polls cancelled on the basis of delimitations and flawed census. He added that it was the same MQM that had jointly notified the flawed results of the census, cutting the population of Karachi to half, despite strong unrest prevailing among Karachiites against the injustice.
He said that the MQM did nothing to get the issue of delimitations resolved, instead the party leadership always bargained for its own monetary and political gains.
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