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LB polls plan for cantonment boards hits snags

September 12, 2013

ISLAMABAD, Sept 11: A plan to hold local bodies’ elections in 43 cantonment boards across the country in the first week of November appears to have run into snags.

Sources told Dawn on Wednesday that doubts about the holding of the polls had been created by the formation of a 12-member committee by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to consider the draft Cantonment (Amendment) Ordinance 2013.

The ECP had held a meeting on Thursday to finalise arrangements for holding the polls in the first week of November and set Nov 3 as the date after having been informed by the Ministry of Defence that the prime minister had approved the summary of the draft Cantonment (Amendment) Ordinance 2013 and sent it to the President for promulgation.

But on Wednesday, the Cantonment authorities informed the ECP about the formation of the committee by the prime minister, prompting the ECP Secretary Ishtiak Ahmad Khan to write a letter to Attorney General Munir A. Malik.

In the letter, Mr Khan said the commission was not aware of the exact position but any delay in the promulgation of the ordinance would be a violation of the Supreme Court’s judgment of Jan 3, 2013, and the commission would not be able to hold the elections by the first week of November.

He said he had been asked by the commission to bring the matter to his notice so that the prime minister and the committee could be apprised of this aspect.

The elections in the cantonment boards were to be held in accordance with Article 140-A of the Constitution and the Supreme Court’s Jan 1 judgment.

The Article 140-A of the Constitution reads “Each province shall, by law, establish a local government system and devolve political, administrative and financial responsibility and authority to elected representatives of local governments”. The last local government elections in cantonment areas were held in 1998.

A senior ECP official when contacted said the commission was prepared to hold the elections and the plan for getting ballot papers and stationary printed and a draft of the code of conduct were ready. He said that a training schedule for the polling staff had also been prepared.

He said an early promulgation of the ordinance was essential for the ECP to move in accordance with the plan.