Lahore High Court on Monday directed the Election Commission of Pakistan to hold local elections on party basis in Cantonment Boards across the province.
However, the court said there should be no change in the deadline for submission of nomination papers that would end on March 31 (today). The ECP had earlier set March 31 as the deadline for submission of nomination papers on a non-party basis.
The petitioner’s counsel had also requested the court that the ECP should be asked to undertake new delimitations of constituencies in cantonments. He had said that local elections should be held in cantonments on the basis of new delimitations. However, the court adjourned hearing on new delimitations till June.
In the short order issued on Monday, the court asked the federal government and the Election Commission of Pakistan to issue directives for the returning officers to accept nomination papers that mentioned party affiliations. The order further said that the candidates who had already filed their nomination papers would be allowed to add their party affiliation to them by March 31 (today).
Justice Mansoor Ali Shah issued the directive in a petition of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf Punjab president Ijaz Chaudhry.
He struck down Section 61 of the Cantonment Ordinance of 2002 and Section 14 of the Cantonment Local Government (Elections) Ordinance of 2002 under which elections to local bodies in cantonments could be held only on a non-party basis. He said such a requirement was in violation of the Article 17(2) of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan (freedom of association).
Counsel for the Cantonment Board had earlier held that there was little room for political activities in the cantonments as residents were already represented on the cantonment boards. The court responded that whatever political activity happened in the cantonments, there was no reason to prevent political parties from participating in it.
The petitioner’s counsel had objected to the ban on party-based local elections in cantonment areas.
He had requested the court to declare Section 61 of the Cantonment Ordinance 2002 and Section 14 of the Cantonment Local Government (Elections) Ordinance 2002 as unconstitutional and issue orders for party-based elections in cantonment areas.
The Monday directive referred to judgments in the Pakistan Peoples Party vs the Government of Punjab and others (PLD 2014, Lahore 330), Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif vs President of Pakistan and others (PLD 1993, Supreme Court 473), Muhammad Nasir Mahmood and another vs the Federation of Pakistan through the Ministry of Law, Justice and Human Rights Division Secretary (PLD 2009 Supreme Court 107), Benazir Bhutto and another vs the Federation of Pakistan and another (PLD 1989 Supreme Court 66), Benazir Bhutto vs the Federation of Pakistan and another (PLD 1988 Supreme Court 416) and the Army Welfare Sugar Mills Workers’ Union vs Army Welfare Sugar Mills (2009 SCMR 202).
Published in The Express Tribune, March 31st, 2015.
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