ISLAMABAD: Islamabad’s first-ever local government elections, scheduled for July 25, have apparently been postponed indefinitely. The election commission has recalled the poll schedule after the Supreme Court decided to give parliamentarians more time to draft legislation on the LG system in the federal capital.
In March, the apex court had ordered LG polls in the Islamabad Capital Territory. The primary requirement of its legislation had been pending in parliament when the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced the poll schedule on June 23.
In the meantime, the electoral body finalised all the preparations on the basis of the draft law, which was passed by the lower house of parliament and had been pending in the upper house.
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Since no law was passed and the schedule had reached its final stages, the election commission went to the SC for further directions. The top court summoned the relevant government officials, who assured the court earlier this week that parliament would pass the law within a few days.
On the government’s assurance, the SC asked the election body to withdraw the schedule.
The pending legislation – Islamabad Capital Territory Local Government Act – was passed by Senate on Thursday but after one amendment. The Senate changed the LG polling system from non-party-based to party-based. The amended law will now be sent back to the National Assembly.
However, the amendment would require further review of the system of union councils. Previously, the ECP had made poll preparations on the assumption of non-party system of local governments.
All the 79 union councils will now be further divided into six wards each from where one councillor will be elected on a general seat. Similarly, changes will have to be made on the reserved seats.
Read: Seeking stay: PML-N leader petitions SC against LG polls
Under the non-party based system, a candidate can be a voter from anywhere in the union council. But in the party-based system, a candidate should have his or her vote registered within the ward from where he is contesting polls. The whole exercise would require a few months and it is likely the polls will be pushed till the end of this year if everything goes smoothly.
Meanwhile, the ECP also issued notification for appointment of returning officers (ROs) and assistant returning officers (AROs) for the upcoming LG elections in Punjab and Sindh. The polls are due in the provinces in September this year.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2015.
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