While the provincial administrations are still dragging their feet on the local bodies (LB) elections, the Supreme Court directed them on Monday to finalise legislation by August 15 for holding the elections. The court maintained that the cantonment boards would hold the elections by September 15 and it was appreciable if the provinces followed suit one week prior or later.
“The governments of Punjab, Sindh, Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, Balochistan and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration are allowed to complete the process of promulgating new laws and rules and bring delimitations to ensure early holding of the LB polls,” a three-judge bench – headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry – said in a written order.
The bench, also comprising Justice Jawwad S Khawaja and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, was hearing a case regarding the law and order situation in Balochistan and LB elections in the country.
It’s our constitutional duty to ensure the provisions of the Constitution are followed to enable the general public to participate in good governance, the bench observed. Justice Chaudhry said the court has already fixed the date of September 15 for the LB elections in the cantonment areas across the country and the authorities have assured that the exercise would be completed with the given timeframe.
Earlier during the proceedings, Punjab’s Advocate General Mustafa Ramday told the bench that the provincial government needed two to three weeks’ time to complete the process of delimitation and promulgate a new local government law. Only after that we would be able to give a date for the LB elections, he added.
Sindh’s Advocate General Khalid Javaid informed the bench that the provincial administration was willing to hold the LB elections by the date fixed by the Supreme Court. However, he sought time until December 31 to finalise preparations.
The Balochistan government’s top law officer apprised the court that the rehabilitation of tribesmen was going on in Dera Bugti and Marri areas therefore the provincial administration needed some time to hold the elections. Interestingly, only Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa’s advocate general expressed readiness without qualms for holding elections in September, saying that the provincial administration has already initiated the process of legislation.
Appearing on behalf of the ICT administration, Deputy Attorney General Sajid Ilyas Bhatti said the federal government was ready to hold the LB polls in the rural areas of the capital but needed amendments in the Local Government Act 1979 for the exercise in the urban areas.
The ECP director general (Elections), Sher Afgan, informed the bench that the Commission needed at least 90 days to hold the LB elections after the provincial governments made a request. Normally, the ECP requires 60 days to hold the general elections. However, if the assemblies are dissolved without completing their constitutional terms the Commission requires 90 to 120 days to make arrangements for fresh elections on an emergency basis.
The bench, in its order, directed all the units to finalise legislation by mid August so that the LB elections could be held in September.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 23rd, 2013.
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