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LB poll delay: SC warns of consequences

Updated July 19, 2013

ISLAMABAD, July 18: The governments of Punjab and Sindh showed reluctance in the Supreme Court on Thursday to specify timeframe for holding local bodies’ elections in the provinces.

Punjab’s acting Advocate General Mustafa Ramday said the provincial government had initiated the process of holding the elections and would promulgate a law in this regard but required at least 90 days to complete the delimitation exercise. And whenever the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is finally ready, Punjab will have no objections.

Additional Advocate General of Sindh Mir Qasir Jat said the provincial government needed five months because new districts, union councils and Talukas would have to be created through delimitation before holding the elections.

ECP’s Additional Director General (legal) Abdul Rehman Khan said the commission would hold the local government elections in 90 days after the provinces sent requisition for the purpose.

But the court did not accept the arguments and warned that it would issue a judgment with all consequences for the provincial governments for not adhering to the constitutional command under Article 140 (a) of the constitution which required the holding the LB elections.

A three-judge bench, headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, had directed the provincial governments to submit on Thursday statements suggesting a specific date for the elections. The ECP was summoned to state when it would be in a position to hold the elections.

The court had on Wednesday asked the provincial governments to consider holding the LB elections on Sept 15 -- the day similar elections would be held in all cantonment boards. The issue cropped up during the hearing of the law and order situation in Balochistan.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa was the only province which said it was ready to hold the elections. “Following the constitutional command and mandate under Article 140(a) of the constitution, the provincial government has decided to hold the elections as early as possible,” Additional Advocate General Syed Arshad Hussain said.

Deputy Attorney General Sajid Ilyas Bhatti informed the court that the federal government was ready to hold the elections in both rural and urban areas of the federal capital subject to EC’s readiness.

A representative of the Balochistan government informed the court that Advocate General Shakeel Baloch had flown back to Quetta to seek instructions.

The court pointed out that there was continuity in both Punjab and Sindh because before the installation of the newly elected governments the same administration of the same political parties and the same chief ministers had been functioning in the two provinces.

It was incumbent upon both the governments to adhere to the constitutional provisions, but they had failed to take necessary steps for strengthening the democratic order by devolving the financial responsibility and authority to the chosen representatives at the grassroots level, the court said. No departure from the constitutional provisions is possible, particularly when the chief executives of newly elected provincial governments have taken oath to preserve the constitution.

The court was also not pleased with the stance taken by the ECP and said the commission should not have showed reluctance in discharging its duty.

The court postponed hearing to July 22, enabling the provinces to submit written statements.