The Senate on Thursday passed the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Local Government Bill 2015, removing a major hurdle in holding the elections in the federal capital.
The bill, which has seen many changes from the version previously passed by the lower house, envisages holding local government elections in Islamabad on party basis. The bill will now be presented before the National Assembly in the upcoming session. If the lower house passes the amended bill, the President of Pakistan can sign it in to law, which will pave the way for the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to announce a new polling schedule.
“Local bodies’ election may be conducted on party basis in pursuance of the judgment of the Lahore High Court, wherein the direction is to hold elections on party basis. The local bodies’ elections being held in the provinces of Punjab, Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa were on party basis, hence there should be no discrimination in conducting the elections in Islamabad on the same basis, in view of the LHC judgment,” the Senate Standing Committee on Interior recommended.
For this, the committee has amended clause 14 of the bill, which now reads, “Franchise — Save as otherwise provided, election of members of all local governments shall be held on party basis through secret ballot on the basis of adult franchise.”
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar, who moved the bill, said it will rationalise and recognise the local government system in the federal capital. “The government accepts recommendations despite having several reservations over the committee report, therefore, the Senate may pass the bill while keeping in mind the deadline set by the court,” he said.
Before the bill sailed through voting, the opposition staged a token walkout after Leader of the Opposition in the Senate Aitzaz Ahsan urged the Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani to defer voting on the bill till the privilege committee’s report is presented before parliament. The Senate’s privilege committee is taking up a motion moved by Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Senator Saeed Ghani regarding a possible breach of house privilege by the ECP. The PPP leader alleged that the country’s electoral body breached the Senate’s privilege by issuing an LG elections schedule for Islamabad.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2015.