Local government polls in Islamabad could not be held under the current arrangement as it was ‘incompatible and against the constitution’, a counsel for petitioners told the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday.
When IHC division bench comprising Justice Noorul Haq N Qureshi and Justice Aamer Farooq took up different petitions challenging the Islamabad Capital Territory Local Government Act, 2015, the delimitation and other lacunas related to LG polls, the petitioners including Saeedullah Khan Kaleem and Raja Ehsan Ali maintained through their counsel Raja Shafqat Khan Abbasi that the delimitation in Islamabad was ‘politically motivated’ and it should be declared null and void for being not in favour of the public interest at large.
Abbasi argued that article 140-A of the constitution did not empower parliament to legislate local government laws for holding elections in Islamabad as the article only deals with legislation for provinces.
He maintained that the article requires each province to establish a local government system, which cannot be deemed to be applicable to Islamabad without insertion of terms such as “ICT” or “Federal Territory” in the law through a constitutional amendment.
The counsel argued that the act was inconclusive as it did not empower the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to delimit constituencies. According to the said act, this was the job of the executive but it was done by the ECP, he said.
The petitioners counsel said that no age limit has been set and everyone above 25 has been declared youth under the act. “This shows the seriousness of the authorities,” he said adding that the upper age limit for women, youth, peasants/workers and technocrats has also not been set in the act.
While referring to the powers given to the Capital Development Authority, Abbasi questioned the need for holding LG elections if everything has to be done by the civic agency.
“What would happen if the newly elected local government bypasses all rules, brings changes in the master plan and allows slums everywhere in the capital,” remarked Justice Qureshi.
He also asked the petitioners’ counsel if he had come to the court to get the polls, being conducted on the Supreme Court’s orders, stopped. Abbasi replied that he was not against elections but wanted it to be done within the purview of the law.
While challenging the delimitation order, PTI’s additional central organiser Saifullah Sarwar Khan Niazi has requested the court to set aside the order of October 10, seeking directives for conducting fresh delimitation of union councils in the capital.
Among other petitioners, former senator Syed Zafar Ali Shah has contended that the delimitation authority changed the classification of some constituencies and merged them with others.
Meanwhile, the proceedings were disrupted by the earthquake that jolted the IHC building spreading panic among those present there. The hearing was resumed after a few minutes but when the petitioners’ counsel asked for more time for arguments, the court adjourned the matter till Tuesday (today).
Published in The Express Tribune, October 27th, 2015.
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