ISLAMABAD: Continuing with a rare exercise of its authority to meet constitutional obligations, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has issued a final deadline of two weeks to the Sindh government to provide prerequisites for holding local government elections in the province.
“Alternatively, the Commission shall initiate the delimitation process in the province with effect from December 1, 2021 under the applicable local government law i.e. the Sindh Local Government Act, 2013 and Rules framed there under,” an order passed by the ECP reads.
In the meantime, the commission has directed to chalk out the delimitation plan/schedule for constituencies for the polls and approval of the ECP.
The order noted with concern that the term of the local governments in Sindh had expired on Aug 30, 2020 and that the commission was under constitutional and legal obligation to hold the local bodies polls within 120 days of the expiry of the tenure.
“This Commission prior to and after the expiry of the term of the local governments, has been insisting the provincial government to provide maps and requisite data for delimitation,” the order points out. Various letters had also been written and meetings held with provincial government representatives in this regard.
“Despite all best efforts of the Commission, the required assistance of the provincial government still lacks and its varying stances for gaining more and more time prima facie show that the said government apparently is not serious in holding the local government elections,” the order reads.
The ECP observed that any further delay would be a violation of articles 140A and 219(d) of the Constitution, the Elections Act 2017, as well as a Supreme Court verdict.
It said that under articles 7, 32 and 140A(1) of the Constitution, every province is bound to establish a local government system in the province and to devolve political, administrative and financial authority to the elected representatives. In terms of Article 220, the federal and provincial governments are duty bound to assist the chief election commissioner and the ECP in conducting the elections, including LG, and the commission cannot be dictated by any executive authority of the federation or province.
The commission said there were a number of judgements of the Supreme Court that elaborated the constitutional duty of the ECP in holding local government elections.
In the ‘Balochistan High Court Bar vs FOP etc’ and Raja Rab Nawaz cases the apex court had held that “the provinces may have power to legislate in respect of conduct of local government elections but if there is no legislation or if there is defective legislation, the Election Commission is not absolved from performing its duties under the Constitution and further that Constitutional provisions cannot be allowed not to be adhered to for want of sub-constitutional legislation”.
Published in Dawn, November 16th, 2021