LAHORE: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N)’s leadership believes that local government elections in Punjab are likely to be delayed till 2019, following a ruling of Lahore High Court (LHC), which stopped the government from carrying out the delimitation exercise.
The PML-N senior leaders called an emergency meeting on Tuesday after the LHC decision, which abrogated the Punjab Local Government Act (PLGA) 2013’s clauses 7, 8 and 9 which allowed the government to carry out delimitation of union councils and wards. According to the ruling, Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will now perform the delimitation job.
A few of the attendees of the meeting told The Express Tribune that the Punjab government had been under pressure of Supreme Court of Pakistan to hold local government elections and had planned to conduct them on January 30, 2014.
However, they said that the court verdict had given the government a pretext to defer the polls and now the PML-N leadership had devised a strategy to delay the polls till 2019.
According to some attendees of the meeting, the party has decided that it will not challenge the court decision in the Supreme Court of Pakistan. The Punjab government, keeping in view the court order, will take four months in amending the clauses 7, 8 and 9 of the PLGA 2013 in Punjab Assembly. The ECP will be empowered to delimit constituencies instead of the government.
The party has estimated a period of six months for new delimitations and two months more for their appeals etc. After one year, the question will be raised by certain quarters that delimitation should be done under new census.
Apart from this, a voice will be raised to hold the local government elections after census. They said parliament had recently passed a resolution in the National Assembly and prayed that the LG polls should be held after census.
After this hue and cry, the PML-N’s federal government – which is not willing to hold census for two or three years due to the law and order situation – will delay census for three years. After that period, the party believes, if it announces to hold local body election in the province six months before the upcoming 2018 general election, people will start criticising the election and the government will be in a position to further delay them till 2019.
In this regard, the party assigned some role to Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan, who will hold a press conference today, to clarify the party position on LG election and court rulings.
Sanaullah, while talking with The Express Tribune, confirmed that he did not see local government elections being held in the province in the near future due to the court rulings.
He said earlier a special division bench comprising Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Farrukh Irfan Khan on November 7 had struck down clause 18 of the PLG Act 2013 about non-party based election but rejected petitioners arguments to also strike down clauses 7, 8 and 9 of the Act.
“Before passing the PLGA 2013, the Punjab government had mentioned it as the ECP’s responsibility to carry out delimitation but the ECP asked the government that it could not carry out delimitation due to lack of human resource,” he said. He said later the government had inserted the word ‘government’ in the said clauses.
“On November 7, the government had presented the ECP’s letter before the court and the court had observed that the ECP’s duty was to hold elections not to carry out delimitation as it declared it was the executive’s domain to carry out delimitation,” he added.
He said the government respected the recent court ruling and local body elections, which were scheduled to be held on January 30, would not be held on the said date.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 1st, 2014.