ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Monday reserved its judgement in a case relating to delay in holding local government elections in Sindh after a representative of the provincial government linked the conduct of polls in the province with a fresh census.
Karachi administrator Murtaza Wahab argued before a three-member ECP bench, headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, that the Sindh government was not reluctant to hold the LG polls but would conduct them on the basis of results of the new census.
“We have submitted our legal reservations to parliament and now the matter of local bodies elections remains with the federal government,” he said, referring to Sindh’s appeal against a decision of the Council of Common Interests (CCI) to approve census results.
Mr Wahab sought ECP’s directives for early convening of a joint session of parliament for a decision on Sindh’s appeal and said the provincial government would be ready to hold the LG polls within six months after a decision on the appeal. He said that parliament’s decision, and not that of the CCI, would be a final word, adding that the delay now was solely because of legal complications.
Mr Wahab, however, said the Sindh government would provide all the required documents to the ECP and promised to obey any order passed by the electoral body. He said the Sindh government would conduct the LG elections by February if so ordered.
He said the Sindh chief minister had submitted his note of dissent to the CCI, pointing out that the population of Sindh and Balochistan had been shown to have shrunk in the 2017 census. He also raised a question as to what would happen if a joint session was convened by the National Assembly speaker after the conduct of delimitation exercise.
ECP Special Secretary Zafar Iqbal Hussain pointed out that the term of local bodies in Sindh had expired on Aug 30 last year and the law required that the polls were conducted within 120 days after the expiry of the term. It seems the Sindh government does not want to hold the elections in the near future, he added.
Mr Hussain was of the view that the provincial government should be directed to provide maps and other necessary data so that the ECP could start delimitation exercise.
ECP Director General (law) Muhammad Arshad observed that the conduct of LG elections was a constitutional responsibility of the commission. He said the LG polls had a significance and referred to a judgement of the apex court on elections at the lowest tier. He said the Sindh government had made a commitment to hold the LG elections after publication of the final results of 2017 census.
Mr Arshad said the ECP could not wait for a joint session of parliament to decide Sindh’s appeal against the CCI decision.
The additional attorney general argued that the CCI had already approved the census results by a majority decision and there was no legal hitch in the way of LG polls after it. He said it was a responsibility of the ECP to carry out delimitation after publication of the census results. He said the LG polls could not be delayed and pointed out that convening a joint session of parliament was a prerogative of the National Assembly speaker.
Murtaza Wahab, however, said it would be violation of the Constitution if a joint session of parliament was not convened. He also asked whether the LG elections had been held in other three provinces and the federal capital. “Why do we only talk of LG polls in Sindh?”
At this, CEC Sikandar Sultan Raja said the ECP decision would be applicable to all the provinces, adding that the commission would take a decision that served the national interest.
Published in Dawn, September 7th, 2021