ISLAMABAD: The Sindh government continues to drag its feet on the local government elections about a year after the expiry of the term of local bodies.
During a meeting of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) held on Monday with Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja in the chair, the Sindh government again expressed its inability to hold the local government elections due to a pending case in the court on the 2017 census results.
The meeting, besides members of the ECP and senior officers, was attended by Adviser to Sindh Chief Minister Murtaza Wahab, Sindh Chief Secretary Syed Mumtaz Ali Shah and the Sindh Local Government Secretary.
Chief Secretary Syed Mumtaz Ali Shah informed the Commission that the Sindh government could not hold local government elections as it had reservations over the 2017 census results and it wanted to make changes in Sindh Local Government Act. It could take around six months.
A case challenging census results has caused the delay, ECP told
ECP Secretary Umar Hameed Khan said that the term of local governments in Sindh had expired on August 30 last year and as per the Constitution, the Election Commission must hold polls within 120 days after the expiry of the term.
He said the ECP had finalised all preparations for holding local government elections in the province and a notification for appointment of delimitation officers and formation of local government authorities had also been issued on June 1, 2021.
He said the Sindh government had not provided to the ECP details of the number of union councils, maps and other data.
He said these prerequisites must be provided so that the process of delimitation in the province for local government elections could be commenced.
The chief secretary rook the position that the Sindh government wanted to introduce amendments to the local government law determining the nature and number of all local government tiers, including local councils, municipal corporations, municipal committees and town committees and that six months were required for carrying out this process.
Adviser to Sindh Chief Minister Murtaza Wahab said the provincial government had reservations over the final census results published on May 6 after approval by the Council of Common Interests and pointed out that an appeal under Article 154(7) of the Constitution had been filed with the federal government.
He said the LG polls could not be conducted unless the appeal was decided. He said in the presence of these reservations, the legislation to determine the nature of local governments and the number of their members was also not possible.
He also referred to a judgement of the Sindh High Court which had ruled that the process for amending the local government law be completed 18 months before, and the delimitation started a year before announcement of the election schedule.
In his remarks, Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja said the Sindh government had earlier taken the position that the local government polls were not possible on the basis of preliminary census results following which the delimitation process in the province had temporarily been halted. “Now when the final results of census have been published you say the Sindh Government has reservations over the final census results. This viewpoint gives an impression that the Sindh government is not serious about conducting LG polls.”
He also said that representatives of the Sindh government said they were not in a position to give a timeframe for holding the LG polls.
After hearing the viewpoint of the Sindh government, the Commission decided to hold a separate session to ponder over the issue and take an appropriate decision during the current week.
Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah had last month said that local bodies’ elections in the province would be held on party basis and well before the general election.
Talking to reporters in Dadu, he had said the province would hold the local government elections in such a manner that no contestant or party would have any objection over the process and arrangements for the polls.
Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2021