While showing dissatisfaction over a government report, the Supreme Court on Thursday gave the law secretary 10 days to submit a complete report with a definite timeline for holding polls in cantonment areas.
A three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani observed that by delaying polls in these areas, the government was resorting to delaying tactics. It seems the government is not at all interested in holding elections in these areas, the bench observed.
The chief justice warned that no delay would be tolerated and preparations must be made to hold elections in cantonment areas without further ado.
The court observed that contempt proceedings against the defence secretary were tied to holding elections in cantonment areas, as permission for the interim set-up to manage the affairs of the cantonments boards has already been extended to February 6.
Meanwhile, Defence Secretary Asif Yasin’s counsel Iftikhar Gilani argued his client was not in the country and the hearing should be adjourned.
The chief justice remarked that good faith will prevail while disposing of the case, and if necessary, respondents would be indicted. While turning towards the respondents, the judge observed, “Try your best to hold elections immediately.”
Gilani told the court that the defence secretary has corresponded over the issue with cantonment boards several times, as according to him, elections could not be held at the order of his client alone.
Additional Attorney General Shah Khawar said that the legislation is in the pipeline and once the law passes through parliament, elections would be scheduled accordingly.
Justice Amir Hani Muslim asked if there was any law providing for elections to be held in cantonment areas without waiting for new legislation.
Khawar told the court that there were two separate conflicting laws and the Election Commission of Pakistan has directed the authorities to remove discrepancies between them.
“These are all delay tactics that we have been hearing for the last one-and-half month,” Jilani remarked when the government representatives said the government was sincere in conducting elections in these areas.
Khawar also pleaded for the court to further extend the tenure of the interim set-up managing cantonment board affairs, as according to him, the stay against the interim set-up has brought work to a standstill.
The court said that the affairs of the cantonment boards should be run under the existing cantonment laws unless the matter was adjudicated.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 17th, 2014.
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