Supreme Court hints at ordering LG polls under old system
27 September, 2013
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has warned that if the provincial governments and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) authority failed to hold local government elections after Muharram then it might ask them to hold the elections under the old system.
The court directed the additional attorney general and the advocates general of all the provinces to file replies after which it would examine other options to enforce the constitutional provisions, particularly Article 140A. A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, while hearing the local bodies' elections case, said that it could not allow anyone to make the constitution non-effective. The court asked the counsels to provide the details of old local government polls of their respective provinces.
The chief justice said that the masses at the grass roots level must be allowed to participate in the democratic setup. "This is only be possible if the local government polls are held," he added.
Justice Iftikhar said the local bodies system would be helpful in controlling dacoities, theft and terrorism, especially in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan. Balochistan advocate general informed the court that the provincial government has decided to hold local government elections on December 7, but the chief justice questioned how could the government take a decision in this regard when the province had no cabinet.
Chief Justice Iftikhar remarked that the local bodies' elections are the only source of public representation at grass roots level. He reaffirmed that courts did not have any intention to derail the system, but betterment is coming and system should prevail. "Political parties gain votes in the name of the constitution of Pakistan and after coming into power it becomes their duty to protect the constitution," the chief justice remarked. He categorically stated that courts would not allow any one to violate the constitution. Local bodies' elections, he noted, would be helpful in maintaining law and order throughout the country.
It must be noted that three days ago Punjab Acting AG Mustafa Ramday had informed the court that local bodies election in the province would be held on December 14. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has not given any specific date so far, and its advocate general had informed the bench that instead of union councils the provincial government wanted to have village councils. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Advocate General Abdul Latif Yousafzai argued that the provincial government has changed the system from union councils to village councils.
He said 957 union councils would be merged in the 3,500 village councils, and one village council would comprise of 8,000 people. He said for the new system the government would have to legislate. The provincial government, he said, was enthusiastic about announcing the date of the local bodies' elections but legislation in this regard needed some time. Justice Jawwad S Khawaja remarked that if legislation requires time then it could be done through an ordinance. He said there was an impression that the new Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government would be the first to hold the local bodies' elections but now it is not giving a clear date.
Additional Attorney General Shah Khawar told the court that the government was in the process of making the law for the ICT local bodies' polls. He said there was an issue of rural and urban divide. However, Justice Jawwad pointed out that this issue has been dealt with in the ICT Local Government Ordinance 2002. He said that according to the Section 42 of the ordinance if there is any difficulty then the Election Commission of Pakistan and the federal government would remove it.
Meanwhile, Election Commission of Pakistan Director General Abdul Rehman told the court that he needed some time to inquire from the ECP about its preparedness to hold local bodies' elections in the provinces and the Islamabad Capital Territory. Sindh advocate general told the bench that the process of de-limitation had been initiated and elections would probably be held on November 27 in the province. The chief justice appreciated the steps taken by the Sindh government and said that it must be ensure that the whole process is completed as early as possible. The court adjourned the hearing till October 1.