ECP bench reserves judgement on delay in local govt polls in Islamabad

Published October 6, 2021
Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Special Secretary Zafar Iqbal told the bench that the term of local government elections completed on Feb 14 and ECP was supposed to conduct elections within 120 days. — Radio Pakistan/File
Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Special Secretary Zafar Iqbal told the bench that the term of local government elections completed on Feb 14 and ECP was supposed to conduct elections within 120 days. — Radio Pakistan/File

ISLAMABAD: A two-member bench of Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday reserved its judgement after hearing the view point of government officials over delay in holding of local government elections in the capital.

The bench comprising Nisar Ahmed Durrani and Shah Mohammad Jatoi heard comments of the interior secretary, chief commissioner and deputy commissioner regarding the government’s preparation for local government elections in the capital.

During the hearing, ECP Special Secretary Zafar Iqbal told the bench that the term of local government elections completed on Feb 14 and ECP was supposed to conduct elections within 120 days. He said the ECP had written several letters to the interior secretary and chief commissioner in this regard.

Interior Secretary Yousuf Nasim Khokhar said he had mentioned to the ECP that steps were being taken for holding local bodies elections in Islamabad, adding that the federal government was going to formulate a new Local Government Act to give more power to the new system. A draft act has been sent to the Ministry of Law and Justice for vetting.

After vetting from the law ministry, the draft bill will be presented before the Cabinet Committee on Legislative Cases (CCLC) for approval.

It is relevant to note here that the interior secretary and chief commissioner had been summoned by ECP for the said hearing over the matter relating to delay in provision of requisite information and enactment of local government law ahead of the upcoming local government elections.

The ECP, through separate letters (dated Sept 27), had directed the aforementioned officers to appear before the commission.

Earlier, on Aug 5, a meeting was held at the ECP Secretariat, which besides others was attended by both the interior secretary and chief commissioner.

According to the letter issued by the ECP: “In the afore referred meeting on the assurance of the federal government for taking necessary steps/making arrangements i.e establishment of union councils with an average population of 20,000 per union council and requisite legislation/enactment of new Local Government Act with the approval of federal cabinet, period of one month was allowed to the federal government doing the needful.”

The letter added that the chief commissioner was directed by the election commissioner to provide necessary documents (including maps and data) required for the delimitation of constituencies of the local government, however, this was not done.

Under Article 140 A (2) read with section 219 (4) of the Elections Act, 2017, it is ECP’s duty to hold local government elections within 120 days after expiry of the term of local governments.

The letter highlighted that delimitation of constituencies is a foundational step and part of the process of organising and holding elections, justly and fairly, in terms of section 17 and 221 of the Elections Act, 2017.

Earlier, the ECP had started the delimitation process but stopped it when the Interior Ministry on July 6 withdrew its notification about the 50 union councils. Since then, the process has been halted.

Last month, however, the federal cabinet had given the go-ahead to amending the Islamabad Local Government Act, 2015. The cabinet also gave approval for increasing the number of union councils from 50 to approximately 100, stating that each union council will comprise a population of 20,000.

Published in Dawn, October 6th, 2021

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