The provincial governments have been dilly-dallying on the local bodies (LB) elections. On Wednesday however, the Supreme Court asked the provincial administrations, Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for a ‘definite date’ on the LB polls across the country.
A three-judge bench – headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry – passed the order while hearing a case regarding the worsening law and order situation in Balochistan. The bench underlined that the LB polls are important in maintaining a contact between people and the government.
“We will appreciate if the provinces and the ICT hold the local bodies’ election simultaneously,” observed Justice Chaudhry. He regretted that even though new administrations were in place in all the provinces, no concrete steps have been taken thus far for holding LB elections.
“It is necessary to hold the local bodies’ elections not only to fulfill a constitutional command but also to ensure participation of people for good governance,” the bench observed.
The apex court had asked the law officers of the provincial governments at a previous hearing to seek instructions from their respective governments on holding the local government elections.
Barring Sindh, all provincial governments and the ICT assured the bench on Wednesday of their willingness to hold LB elections but did not give a date.
Deputy Attorney General Sajid Ilyas Bhatti, representing the ICT, submitted a statement before the bench suggesting that the ICT was willing to hold LB polls in the rural areas under the Capital Territory Local Government Ordinance, 1979. But Justice Chaudhry directed him to ensure LB elections were held in the rural as well as urban areas of Islamabad without any distinction.
The court issued notices to the provincial governments to submit a statement by Thursday telling the date on which the LB elections would be held. The bench also asked the ECP for a date it could hold these elections.
Earlier during the hearing, Shahid Hamid, representing the Balochistan government, admitted that a lot more needed to be done for the restoration of ‘complete peace’ in Quetta and the rest of the province. The bench, however, observed that it was the duty of the state to provide security to its citizens.
Hamid conceded that the provincial government was not in a position to take proactive action in the absence of a special force against at least 48 ‘Farrari’ camps situated in the border districts of the province.
“According to the estimates suggested during a special briefing to the previous government, about 5,000 to 8,000 members of the banned Balochistan Liberation Army (BLA) have disappeared in such camps,” he recalled.
Provincial Chief Secretary Babar Yaqoob Fateh Mohammad told the court that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during his recent visit to Balochistan had asked to revamp the provincial police force.
The police, according to him, have been infiltrated by criminals who have launched attacks on the chief secretary, provincial police chief and other members of the provincial administration.
He disclosed that the June 15 attack on the Sardar Bahadur Khan Women’s University bus was in fact a revenge for several police raids on the hideouts of terrorist organisations. He added that terrorists from other provinces have also found a safe haven in these hideouts.
The chief secretary said that the police, Levies as well as the Frontier Constabulary were taking action against these hideouts. At the same time he regretted that government officials from other provinces were unwilling or reluctant to serve in Balochistan. The prime minister has assured support to address this issue, he added.
Justice Chaudhry expressed dismay over the law and order situation in Balochistan in the backdrop of the recent terrorist attacks.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2013.
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