Maiden elections: Fate of Islamabad LG polls turns murky

Polls are being held in a complicated legal environment


Irfan Ghauri July 03, 2015
Polls are being held in a complicated legal environment. PHOTO: AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Senate panel’s decision to hold party-based elections is likely to jeopardise the first-ever local government (LG) polls in the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) on July 25.

The bipartisan body of Senate, which is vetting the draft law on the local government system in ICT, unanimously decided earlier this week that LG elections in the federal capital should be held on party basis.

The decision of the powerful Senate Standing Committee on Interior that has representation of all the mainstream political parties in parliament came at a time when all the formalities of holding the elections are at their final stages. Any decision to alter the procedure at this point would perhaps cancel the July 25 polls.

LG polls in ICT have been marked by legal controversies due to the long delay by parliament to pass a law. Polls are being held in a complicated legal environment since there is no legal structure in place.

Legislation on LG system in ICT is in pending with Senate.  The Senate Standing Committee on Interior is still deliberating on the draft law passed by the National Assembly.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) moved for holding LG polls in the federal capital on the directions of the Supreme Court.

Many legal experts question the legality of the exercise since parliament has not passed the law yet and the polls are being held in a void. The draft of the law passed by the National Assembly and now pending with Senate does not specify organising elections on a party or a partyless basis.

However, some clauses in the proposed law practically make polls partyless, and the ECP interpreted it so.

After completing the delimitation exercise, the ECP nominated returning officers (ROs) and issued the election schedule on June 23, anticipating that parliament would pass the law. Officials of the poll authority claim that the commission is legally bound to hold polls by July 25 in accordance with March 2015 decision by the Supreme Court.

Published in The Express Tribune, July 3rd, 2015. 

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