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SC delays LG polls in three provinces

14 November, 2013

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ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court Wednesday allowed the Election Commission of Pakistan to issue a revised schedule of the local government elections, delaying the polls in three provinces.

The court order comes after the passage of two unanimous resolutions by the National Assembly calling for a delay in the elections. A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, took up the ECP's letter for extension in scheduled dates of local government elections in the provinces and cantonment areas. ECP Additional Secretary Sher Afgan submitted a letter to the Supreme Court registrar to inform the court about the commission's revised schedule regarding the local government elections.

It has been learnt that the commission sent that letter to the SC registrar late at night after the meeting of the chief election commissioner with the chief justice of Pakistan. The ECP pointed out in the letter that on account of certain practical and technical difficulties, the commission had proposed the revised election programme/dates for the local government elections in the provinces and cantonment areas. The commission has now proposed January 30, 2014 as polling date in Punjab and January 18 for Sindh.

For Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and cantonment areas, the ECP did not give the exact date but made it clear that elections there would be held in the month of February. As far as Balochistan is concerned, the local government elections there will be held on December 7, as there is no change in this regard. Regarding the proposed election schedule, the bench observed that the election commission and the provincial governments have shown their commitment to the constitution, thus, without making further observation, the matter stands disposed of.

The court also observed that as per the provisions of articles 32 and 140A of the constitution, as repeatedly emphasised, the federal government is duty-bound to hold elections in the federal area, and provincial governments in the provinces in order to ensure participation of the general public in the administrative, political and financial affairs of the government by establishing local bodies' system.

"As far as sub Article 2 of Article 140A is concerned, it cast a duty upon the election commission to hold the elections of local bodies in terms of sub Article 140A (1). Therefore, it should always remain prepared to meet the challenge and whenever any request by the federal or the provincial government is made for holding elections, the ECP should comply with the same at the earliest," the court observed. The bench also observed that it was the duty of the commission to give the election schedule, as the court would not give any observation in this regard.

The chief justice noted that the ECL kept on throwing the ball to the Supreme Court and then provincial government. "This court, as back as on 5th April, 2012, while hearing a case relating to the law and order situation in the province of Balochistan, noted that the main problem of the province is of socio-economic nature which can only be solved if the general public of the province is empowered by holding elections of local bodies which otherwise is an constitutional obligation of the government in terms of Article 32 of the constitution."

Meanwhile, ECP Secretary Ishtiaque Ahmed said that a meeting of all provincial governments, ministries of interior, defence and finance as well as other departments concerned had been called at ECP on November 19 to chalk out a plan to hold elections.

End.

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