With or without legislation: ECP sticks to its guns

Official says it is following Supreme Court orders wherein draft bill can be used as valid law.

Danish Hussain June 17, 2015
Official says it is following Supreme Court orders wherein draft bill can be used as valid law. STOCK IMAGE

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday said it would continue preparations for holding local government (LG) elections in Islamabad as per the deadlines given by the Supreme Court of Pakistan in a 2010 judgment.

The decision came after Pakistan Peoples Party Senator Saeed Ghani, through a privilege motion in the Senate, questioned the legality of ECP’s preparations for holding LG polls in Islamabad in face of pending legislation over the issue.

The controversy was triggered after Ghani termed the recently-issued ECP notifications in this regard as illegal. The Senate chair on Wednesday referred the motion to the house’s privilege committee for further deliberations.

On June 15, the ECP notified the delimitation of 79 union councils of Islamabad, while on June 8 the election body notified the returning and deputy returning officers for the elections on the basis of “Draft Islamabad Capital Territory Local Government Bill 2015.”

“All these notifications are issued in accordance with the March 10, 2015 judgment of the Supreme Court of Pakistan,” said a senior officer of the ECP who declined to be named. He said the Supreme Court had clearly directed that the ECP should not use pending legislation as an excuse to avoid LG polls in Islamabad.

The Supreme Court, he said, had warned that any deviation from the schedules submitted by the ECP with the apex court would have serious consequences. He said the Supreme Court had said that if government fails to finalise legislation regarding the LG polls, then the draft bill should be treated as a valid law but polls should not be delayed at any cost.

“Instead of ensuring timely passage of the already delayed legislation, lawmakers are trigging new controversies,” the officer said, adding ECP was answerable to the Supreme Court in light of its commitment in this regard.

In his response over the ECP’s stance, Ghani told The Express Tribune that ECP’s acts  were tantamount to undermining the authority of Parliament and supremacy of the Constitution.

“Neither the ECP nor any Court judgment can undo the defined process to draft law by Parliament,” Ghani said, adding that the Senate should not be treated as a post office. He added that the Senate was not bound to follow any commitment given by the ECP before the Supreme Court.

The ICT Local Government Bill, 2015, has been approved by the National Assembly and is pending with the. Following its approval there, it will require a mandatory approval from the President of Pakistan.

The local bodies’ elections, as per schedule of the ECP, are scheduled to be held on July 27 in Islamabad.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 18th, 2015.


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