Local govt polls not possible in Sindh, PPP tells ECP

Updated 08 Sep 2020

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PPP’s provincial president Nisar Khuhro said the commission was informed that even carrying out delimitation of constituencies before publication of the final report of the census was illegal. — AFP/File
PPP’s provincial president Nisar Khuhro said the commission was informed that even carrying out delimitation of constituencies before publication of the final report of the census was illegal. — AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) on Monday said local government (LG) elections in Sindh could not take place until a final notification of the census carried out in 2017 was issued.

Talking to reporters after attending a meeting of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on local government elections in Sindh, PPP’s provincial president Nisar Khuhro said the commission was informed that even carrying out delimitation of constituencies before publication of the final report of the census was illegal.

“We cannot support anything which is against the law,” he said, making it clear that the PPP would not be ready for LG elections before implementation of the agreement reached between the government and the opposition to pave the way for the passage of the 24th Constitution Amendment.

Besides Mr Khuhro and former senators Farhatullah Babar and Taj Haider, Sindh government spokesman Murtaza Wahab and Nazir represented the PPP at the meeting.

Special Secretary Local Government Sindh Khalid Chachar, Research Officer LG Department Akhlaq Ahmad and members and senior officers of the ECP attended the meeting, which was presided over by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja.

Commission says it will decide matter as per law

The ECP’s director general (law) told the meeting that the term of the local governments in Sindh expired on August 30, and holding the polls was the constitutional responsibility of the commission.

The ECP said it would decide the matter as per law.

Later, talking to Dawn, Mr Babar said the local government elections in any province, including Sindh, would be illegal, controversial and open to legal challenges if held in the absence of an official notification of the results of the census carried out in 2017.

He said even the process leading to the elections, including delimitation, would be questionable.

Under Section 17(1) of the Elections Act 2017, the ECP is responsible to delimit territorial constituencies for elections to the National Assembly, each provincial assembly and local governments in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, the act, the rules and the applicable local government law.

Section 17(2) of the act reads, “The Commission shall delimit constituencies after every census officially published.”

Since a final notification of the census results is still on hold apparently due to political reasons, the delimitation of constituencies — a prerequisite for conducting elections — if carried out would be illegal, legal experts believe.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Pakistan Peoples Party had rejected the provisional census results and had agreed to vote in favour of the 24th Amendment on the condition of third person audit of 1pc census blocks proportionately in all the provinces selected by random computer ballot. The audit has never been carried out.

One of the political parties to have rejected provisional census results is now part of the ruling coalition and to many, the reason for delay in official notification was the government’s fear to lose an ally.

Under the law, the local government elections in all the provinces have to take place within four months after expiry of the term of local bodies.

The term of local governments in Balochistan expired on Jan 27, in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Aug 28 while local bodies in Punjab were dissolved on May 4.

The standard time of 120 days, also mentioned in almost all the provincial local government laws, has already passed in the three provinces, and it appears polls in Sindh will also not take place this year before the expiry of the deadline in December.

An ECP official, when contacted, said holding of LG polls was a constitutional responsibility of the commission under Article 219 of the Constitution.

He said under sub-section d and e of Article 219 of the Constitution, the ECP is charged with the duty of holding general elections to the National Assembly, provincial assemblies and the local governments; and such other functions as may be specified by an Act of Majlis-i-Shoora (Parliament).

He said according to Article 140A of the Constitution, each province is required by law to establish a local government system and devolve political, administrative and financial responsibility and authority to the elected representatives of the local governments.

He said Article 140A(2) of the Constitution reads, “elections to the local governments shall be held by the Election Commission of Pakistan”.

Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2020