Local government polls in all 53 cantonment boards of the country will be held on September 15, 2013 as per the Constitution, assured Secretary Defence Lt Gen (retd) Asif Yasin to the Supreme Court on Tuesday.
The court was hearing a case regarding the delay in local government polls in garrison stations across the country.
On January 3, 2013 the SC ordered the federal government to ensure the holding of local government elections soon after the set-up being run by military officers expired on May 5, 2013.
Filed through the Attorney General of Pakistan, Munir A Malik, the defence secretary, in a written undertaking, stated that the process for holding local body elections in the cantonment areas would be completed by September 15.
“In view of a statement filed by the defence secretary, the copy of this order should be sent to the Election Commission of Pakistan to ensure the holding of local bodies elections in terms of Article 32 (promotion of local government institutions) and Article 140-A (ECP to hold local bodies elections) of the constitution,” noted a three-judge SC bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry in a short order.
The last local body elections were held in cantonment areas during October 1998 after which such areas were without any public representation for the last 14 years.
The federal government initiated the process of making certain amendments in relevant laws to pave the way for local body elections in cantonments, the attorney general explained to the court.
On the last date of hearing, the SC bench asked the defence secretary to explain why the apex court’s January 3, 2013 judgment about holding elections in cantonment areas had not been complied with.
There are 53 key cantonment areas in the country including 13 small ones in Mangla, Pannu Aqil and Loralai. The control of military authorities were enhanced on cantonment areas during the government of General (retd) Pervez Musharraf since the head of cantonment boards reported directly to corps commander of the relevant areas.
The court was hearing a petition by former vice president of the cantonment board Quetta advocate Raja Rab Nawaz from Quetta. The petition was filed in 2009, challenging the absence of local body elections in different cantonment boards for the last 14 years.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2013.