Local elections: Court turns up heat on ECP, provinces

Warns it will pass order if definite dates are not set.

Mudassir Raja July 18, 2013
Under article 140-A and 219-C of the constitution, it is the responsibility of the ECP and the provincial governments to hold LB polls without delay, says Chief Justice. PHOTO: APP/FILE


Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry stated on Thursday that the Election Commission of Pakistan and all provincial governments must hold local bodies’ elections not later than September.

He said this after the ECP and provincial governments on Thursday failed to submit to the Supreme Court a definite date for holding LB elections in the country, despite the court ordering them to do so on Wednesday.

A three-judge bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, however disapproved their arguments and directed the ECP and provincial governments to give a final date or submit written statements otherwise the court would pass an order.

“It is a constitutional obligation of the ECP and the governments to hold local bodies elections in the country. If they do not follow the commands of the Constitution, we will have to pass an order,” remarked Chief Justice Chaudhry.

The chief justice said under article 140-A and 219-C, it was the responsibility of the ECP and the provincial governments to hold LB polls without delay.

He said this in response to a plea of the ECP and the governments of Punjab and Sindh that they needed an extended period of time to be able to hold the polls.

The bench, also comprising Justice Jawwad S Khawaja and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, had on Wednesday directed the Islamabad Capital Territory administration, provincial governments and the ECP to give a definite date for holding LB polls after the defence ministry said it would hold them in the cantonment board areas on September 15.

Additional Director General (Legal) ECP Abdul Rehman told the court that the poll body was currently busy with preparations for presidential elections and needed some time to conduct local bodies’ elections.

He said the commission needed around 90 days to get ready for LB polls as it was still waiting for updated electoral rolls from the National Database and Registration Authority and had to arrange logistics and other facilities.

Advocate General Punjab Mustafa Ramday said the provincial government was ready to hold the elections but needed 90 days as the process of delimitation and promulgation of new local bodies’ laws had just been initiated. The draft of the Local Bodies Government Act 2013 had been sent to the Punjab cabinet for approval, he added.

On the other hand, Advocate General Sindh Qaim Mir maintained that his government needed around five months to prepare for LB elections. He too cited delimitation and promulgation of law as reasons for needing the time.

A lawyer for the Balochistan government informed the apex court that the provincial Advocate General, Shakeel Baloch, was in Quetta to get fresh instructions from the government about the elections.

Additional Advocate General Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Arshad Shah said the province had already written to the ECP inquiring for a definite date.

Appearing on behalf of the ICT administration, Deputy Attorney General Sajid Ilyas Bhatti said it was ready to hold the elections in both the urban and rural areas as soon as the ECP announced the date.

The bench then adjourned the hearing till July 22 and directed the provincial governments and the ECP to file written statements about their position on the LB polls.

Sindh govt to appeal for delay

Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah said on Thursday that the provincial government will appeal to the Supreme Court for a six-month delay in the date of the local bodies’ elections.

Speaking at an Iftar dinner hosted by Sindh Minister for Local Bodies, Syed Owais Muzaffar, he said Sindh needed a six-month extension.  Owais Muzaffar said that LB elections were not possible before March next year.

“Why is the Supreme Court in a hurry? It is purely a provincial matter,” he said.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 19th, 2013.


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