SC orders ECP to hold LG polls on given dates
26 October, 2013
ISLAMABAD: Despite Election Commission of Pakistan's (ECP) several reservations, the Supreme Court on Friday ordered the ECP to hold the local government elections in Balochistan, Sindh and Punjab on the dates announced by these provinces.
Sindh wants local government elections in the provinces on November 27, while Punjab and Balochistan have given December 7 date. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Islamabad Capital Territory have still not completed the pre-requisites for the elections. A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, pointed out that under Article 140A(2) of the constitution, the ECP is duty-bound to hold the local government elections, therefore, the court is not in a position to allow any relaxation to the commission.
Two days ago the ECP, through Advocate Akram Sheikh, had filed a concise statement, expressing some reservations on holding local government elections this year. Sheikh requested the bench to consider ECP's oral statement, saying he would file a written reply on the hearing of the case. Meanwhile, a high official of the ECP told our sources that a meeting of ECP's senior officers was held on Friday and it had been decided that the local government elections would be held in view of the Supreme Court order. He also said that the commission would face many legal and administrative issues due to the shortage of time.
Shiekh Akram apprised the bench that the commission was facing some difficulties in holding the elections as time was short. The chief justice remarked that now the ball was in the ECP's court, and added that it must be kept in mind that the courts would not allow anyone to violate the constitution. Advocates general of Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan apprised the bench that formal request for holding elections were sent to the election commission. All law officers of the provinces reiterated that they were prepared to conduct the elections on the given dates.
The ECP official also said that two high-level meetings regarding the local government elections would be held on October 28 and 29. It is worth mentioning that the incumbent chief justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is retiring on December 12 this year. The legal experts believe that if the local government elections are not held before his retirement then the provincial governments might back out from their commitments. During the hearing on Friday, Attorney General of Pakistan Munir A Malik, who was directed to address the court about the consequences if the court's decision was not implemented, stated: "The past baggage should not be carried on the shoulders of the present governments, in the Centre and provinces, as they were installed four months back."
The attorney general said the governments in the provinces and the Centre are conscious of their duty to safeguard the constitutional provisions. He noted that many times when the executive functionaries did not work in accordance with the constitution the apex court had taken cognisance and issued contempt of court notices. The chief justice said the court had to protect the commands of the constitution. Addressing the AGP, Justice Iftikhar said that according to Article 140A of the constitution the government should hold the local government elections.
The court told the attorney general that despite several hearings the ICT and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government have failed to frame the necessary laws, and asked what should be the consequences for not adhering to the constitution and fulfilling its commands. The AGP said that he would address this issue on November 4. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Attorney General Latif Yousafzai informed the court that the relevant bill has been tabled in the provincial assembly and it would be passed in two to three days.
Meanwhile, Additional Attorney General Shah Khawar said that the ICT draft is ready and on the prime minister's table. Justice Jawwad S Khawaja remarked. The hearing of the case has been adjourned until November 4.