Express Media Forum: Politicians on all sides welcome poll delay

PML-N rejects Opp criticism of Local Govt Act, delimitation as posturing.


Rana Tanveer November 14, 2013
PML-N rejects Opp criticism of Local Govt Act, delimitation as posturing. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

LAHORE:


Politicians from both government and opposition parties have welcomed the Supreme Court’s decision to delay the local government polls, saying this would allow a free, fair and transparent electoral process.


Speaking at the Express Media Forum on Wednesday, Punjab Assembly Opposition Leader Mian Mahmoodur Rasheed, Minister for Human Rights and Minority Affairs Khalil Tahir Sindhu, PML-Q Punjab Senior Vice President Muhammad Basharat Raja, former PPP Punjab coordinator Naveed Chaudhry, PML-N leader Samiullah Khan, Supreme Court Bar Association Secretary Asif Cheema and human rights activist Amina Malik hailed the SC decision.

Rasheed said that although the decision had come late, it was the right call as it had prevented a clash of institutions, since Parliament had already twice passed a resolution calling for a delay in the elections. The election commission had also warned that it would be unable to hold the elections on December 7, as earlier planned. Now all the provinces would be able to hold the polls on the same day.



The opposition leader also welcomed the Lahore High Court’s decision to prevent the government from holding partyless elections, which would have led to much horse-trading and corruption.

He accused the Punjab government of gerrymandering in the delimitation process for the new union council boundaries. The government was also continuing with development projects to the benefit of their candidates, which amounted to pre-poll rigging, he said.

He also criticised provisions in the Punjab Local Government Act of 2013 which gave the provincial government the authority to intervene in local government affairs, such as the formation of district education and health authorities controlled by the provincial government.

PML-N leader Samiullah Khan also welcomed the SC decision, but defended the Local Government Act. The Punjab government had consulted opposition parties and civil society on the recently-passed law, and was willing to address any loopholes that remained, he said.

Khan said that the delimitation process had been done in accordance with the law. The delimitation was open to appeal and 641 appeals had been filed in this regard, all of these by private individuals. Not a single appeal had been filed by a political party, he said, showing that the complaints about the process were mere posturing.

Raja Basharat said that it was the federal government’s duty to ensure local government elections were held, but it had failed. He said it was clear that the federal government was not interested in the elections, as it had not released funds for them. He also criticised the provincial government over the delimitation process and its failed plan for partyless elections.

Sindhu rejected Basharat’s argument, saying Article 140-A of the Constitution clearly stated that it was the responsibility of the provincial governments to hold the elections, not the federal government. He said that the government was fully committed to holding the local elections and would do so in accordance with the Supreme Courrt’s directions.

The minister said that the oppositions politicians were criticising the PML-N “only for the sake of criticism”. The opposition parties had all expressed confidence in Fakhruddin G Ebrahim as election commissioner, but started criticising him after the general election results came in.

Amina Malik said the Punjab government did not want to hold the elections because it did not want to devolve powers to local representatives. She said the government must ensure that there is adequate women and minority representation in the elections.

Naveed Chaudhry also welcomed the SC decision, but criticised the courts, describing them as “the Nawaz League courts”. The SC’s decision, he said, had come after Law Minister Rana Sanaullah had stated that the election could not be held according to the previous schedule.

He also criticised the government over the delimitation process and the Local Government Act. He said that there would be “gross rigging” in the elections as the returning officers would be city district government officials who were subservient to the provincial government.

Asif Cheema said the elections should be held as soon as possible, as delays would result in people getting frustrated and demanding separate provinces.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 14th, 2013.

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