ECP to hear Sindh LG polls case on a regular basis

Published August 26, 2021
The ECP asserted that holding local government elections was its constitutional and legal responsibility.  — Photo courtesy Radio Pak/File
The ECP asserted that holding local government elections was its constitutional and legal responsibility. — Photo courtesy Radio Pak/File

ISLAMABAD: As the Sindh government is not ready to hold the long overdue local government elections, the Election Commis­sion of Pakistan (ECP) has decided to take up the issue for regular hearing from Sept 7.

A meeting, presided over by Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) Sikandar Sultan Raja on Wednesday, decided to issue notices to the local government division’s chief secretary and the advocate general, besides seeking assistance of the attorney general.

The ECP asserted that holding local government elections was its constitutional and legal responsibility and all executive authorities in the federation and in the provinces were bound to assist the commission in the discharge of its functions under Article 220 of the Constitution.

The Wednesday huddle was a follow-up to a meeting held on Monday (August 23) where the representatives of the Sindh government had expressed inability to hold LG polls.

Tenure of local governments expired on Aug 30 last year

Sindh Chief Secretary Syed Mumtaz Ali Shah had informed the ECP that the provincial 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 about six months.

ECP Secretary Umar Hameed Khan said that the term of local governments in Sindh had expired on Aug 30 last year and as per the Constitution, the 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 this year.

He said the Sindh government had not provided details of the number of union councils, maps and other data to the ECP.

Mr Khan said these prerequisites must be provided so that the process of delimitation in the province for local government elections could be commenced.

The Sindh chief secretary had told the meeting that the provincial 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 six months were required for carrying out this process.

Adviser to Sindh Chief Minister Murtaza Wahab said the provincial government had reservations over the 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.

Mr Wahab 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.

CEC Sikandar Sultan Raja remarked that 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 been halted temporarily. “Now when the final results of census have been published the Sindh government says it has reservations over the final census results. This viewpoint gives an impression that the Sindh government is not serious about holding LG polls.”

He said that representatives of the Sindh government had also informed the ECP 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 Murad Ali Shah had last month said that local bodies elections 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 26th, 2021

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