ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court on Monday put on notice the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), two ministries and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration seeking their response on a petition challenging the local government (LG) elections in the federal capital.
A division bench comprising Justice Noorul Haq Qureshi and Justice Aamer Farooq summoned the Attorney General, officials of the ECP, ICT, ministries of interior and law as well as secretaries of the National Assembly and Senate on July 17.
The petition has been filed by four residents of the city requesting the court to restrain the federal government and ECP from conducting LG elections in the capital till legal ambiguities are addressed.
Qamar Mustafa, Samina Arif, Muhammad Ashraf and Raja Shakeel Ahmed, through their counsel Mubeenuddin Qazi, have challenged the April 27 interior ministry notification regarding delimitation and structure of the local government in the capital city and its rural areas.
The court directed the respondents to submit their replies in two weeks while summoned them on July 17 on the prayer seeking stay on elections, said Qazi.
The petitioners have also requested the court to declare the delimitation process illegal and unconstitutional until the LG bill, yet to be passed by the Senate, becomes law.
According to Qazi Article 140-A of the Constitution does not empower the parliament to legislate local government laws for ICT, as the article only mentions the provinces.
The article requires each province to establish a local government system, which, the petitioners say, cannot be deemed to be applicable to ICT, without the insertion of the terms “ICT” or “Federal Territory” through a constitutional amendment.
The constitutional amendments in Articles 140-A and 219-d as well as the Federal Legislative List do not empower the ECP to conduct elections as admittedly under Article 1 of the constitution, ICT is an independent federating unit separate from the provinces, he said.
The interior ministry, despite being aware of the fact that the bill has not been approved by the Senate yet, has commenced the election process, undermining the authority of the Senate, as the bill has yet to be laid and deliberated upon, Qazi stated.
The Capital Territory Local Government Ordinance 1979 (CTLGO) as well as ICTLGO 2002 have also not been repealed yet, he contended. They shall be deemed to be enforced continuously under Article 268 of the Constitution and have also been validated under 8th, 17th and 18th amendments, he added.
He said that the Supreme Court verdict on elections in Islamabad did not allow for hastily-conducted elections without introducing the necessary constitutional amendments.
Without removal of anomalies in the bill, approved by the National Assembly in “unholy haste”, elections if held, would result in chaos and multiplicity of proceedings, the petition read.
After the lapse of the Delimitation of Constituencies Ordinance, the ECP cannot conduct the delimitation of the LG constituencies in ICT. “At present there is no valid law enabling the ECP to complete the process of delimitation,” he stated.
The federal government is bound to provide the residents of ICT a sustainable, valid, and constitutional LG system, Qazi maintained. The absence of a legal mandate would provide an opportunity for the ruling party to scrap the results in case of a defeat, on the ground of invalidity and unconstitutionality of the process, he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 16th, 2015.