ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court has described absence of local government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) as brazen disregard of law, regretting that neither the KP chief minister nor his cabinet members were abiding by the KP Local Government Act 2013 and the Constitution.
To abide by the Constitution and the law was “not optional but obligatory”, declared the apex court in a four-page order issued on Tuesday on a petition moved by the administrator of a municipal corporation last month.
“This grave violation of the Act and the Constitution must be brought to an end and the Act and the Constitution must be complied with,” Justice Qazi Faez Isa observed.
It transpired during the hearing that the KP province had been bereft of elected public representatives since Aug 28, 2019, the order said, adding Chapter V of the Act titled ‘Local Council Elections’ comprising 47 sections had been rendered redundant.
Authorities told to stop depriving people of right to elect their representatives
The SC order stated that all constitutional office holders, including the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and members of the Election Commission of Pakistan, before entering their offices take oath. Their oath required them to act in accordance with the Constitution and the law, the order explained. It observed that unfortunately neither the KP chief minister nor the provincial cabinet members were abiding by the Act and the Constitution as local government elections were not being held and people were being deprived of democracy.
Justice Isa also ordered that copies of the judgement be also sent to the CEC and ECP members, KP chief minister and every member of the provincial cabinet to ensure compliance with the Act and their respective legal and constitutional duties.
The court also issued notices to the advocate general and the Attorney General to advise their respective governments to abide by the law and to stop depriving the people of their democratic right to elect their local government representatives.
Earlier during the hearing, Additional Advocate General, KP, Aatif Ali Khan had informed the SC that in compliance to earlier court directions of Feb 11, an application comprising 479 pages had been filed besides details of moveable assets of different district councils, tehsil/municipal administrations, village and neighbourhood councils.
The SC order explained that the court had not asked for the documents, but had directed the chief secretary as well as secretary of the Local Government Elections and Rural Development Department (LGERD) to issue written instructions to the officials concerned to ensure compliance with the KP’s LG Act, 2013.
Earlier the SC while issuing directives for protection of public property by all relevant departments as well as general public had ordered ‘easy access to particulars of all public properties in the province of KP’ be ensured so that people could access information about the properties in digital/electronic form.
“The KP government by its conduct is displaying lack of interest in preserving public property and did not want to make the requisite disclosure of public properties to the public,” Justice Isa observed.
Justice Isa said that acting purely on the assurance extended by the AAG to the court, “we grant last and final opportunity to the chief secretary of the province and secretary LGERD to comply with the order”.
Published in Dawn, November 25th, 2020