The upcoming local bodies’ polls for the capital seem to getting mired in controversy as the issue of the necessary pending bill with the Senate has pitched the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) with legislators.
The ECP issued the schedule for the maiden local government (LG) elections last week despite the fact that the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) LG Bill has not been approved by the Senate and IHC has yet to decide legal anomalies surrounding it.
This is the first time that LG elections, which are being carried out on the Supreme Court’s strict orders, are being carried out on the basis of a draft law.
In the last couple of weeks, the Islamabad High Court saw a flurry of activity in this regard as it dealt with several petitions seeking the court’s intervention for constitutional amendments to legitimise the upcoming polls, remove objections involved in the process of delimitation, to hold party basis elections and grant voting rights for overseas Pakistanis.
Several citizens have gone to court saying that the delimitation process initiated by the ECP for LG elections is illegal and unconstitutional until the bill becomes law. They have also challenged the April 27 notification of the interior ministry regarding demarcation and structure of the local government in ICT.
One of the petitions states that Article 140-A of the Constitution does not empower parliament to legislate local government laws for ICT as the article only mentions the provinces and ICT is an independent federating unit separated from the provinces.
The petitioners’ counsel, Mubeenuddin Qazi, was of the view that the article requires each province to establish a LG system, which cannot be deemed to be applicable to ICT, without the insertion of the terms “ICT” or “Federal Territory” in the law through a constitutional amendment.
Where’s the party?
Meanwhile, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf leaders Asad Umar and Aamir Masood Mughal went to the court seeking directions against the respondents to conduct LG elections in Islamabad on party basis to salvage and restore the delicately poised constitutional balance in accord with the norms of constitutional democracy.
The court, however, observed that the petitioners have challenged a law which was pending before the Senate and it has a right to amend or reject anything from it. Subsequently, the counsel was allowed to amend the petition.
In another petition, PTI chief Imran Khan requested the court to make necessary arrangements for facilitating overseas Pakistanis to exercise their right to vote in the forthcoming elections.
The court, however, ruled that the party did not give the same right to the people of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa before the LG elections, adding that the party was in power in the province but did not fight for the rights of overseas Pakistanis’ participation.
‘Come what may’
In response to the different references made to the apex court’s judgments, IHC judges made it clear that the Supreme Court’s order would be implemented ‘come what may’ but first let the law be formulated.
Without removal of anomalies in the bill, approved by the national assembly in “unholy haste,” elections would result in chaos and multiplicity of proceedings, one of the petitioner’s forecast.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2015.