KP govt challenges PHC order against non-party polls in Supreme Court

Published November 20, 2021
A file view of the Supreme Court building in Islamabad. — AFP
A file view of the Supreme Court building in Islamabad. — AFP

ISLAMABAD: The Khyber Pakhtun­khwa government appealed to the Supre­­me Court on Friday to overturn a Peshawar High Court (PHC) short order declaring as unconstitutional the holding of local bodies’ elections on non-party basis.

The petition, moved jointly by the provincial government and the KP Assembly, pleaded with the apex court to dismiss the high court order.

Through the Nov 2 short order, Justice Roohul Amin Khan, Justice Ijaz Anwar and Justice Syed Arshad Ali of the PHC had declared the provision of the KP Local Government Act for holding elections of village and neighbourhood councils on non-party basis as unconstitutional.

The bench directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the provincial government to hold the elections on party basis in keeping with Article 17 of the Constitution.

The PHC order also asked the provincial government to hold local bodies’ elections in specified districts in accordance with the schedule announced by the Election Commission.

The districts are: Malakand, Bajaur, Mardan, Swabi, Peshawar, Nowshera, Kohat, Karak, D. I. Khan, Bannu, Tank, Haripur, Khyber, Mohmand, Charsadda, Hangu and Lakki Marwat.

The KP government’s petition said the PHC order came as a shock and surprise since it focused solely on its decision to hold elections on non-party basis.

The petition argued that this point was never agitated before the high court by the respondents or petitioners. The KP government too did not assist the high court on this matter.

To comply with Article 140A of the Constitution, which requires provincial governments to establish a local government structure and devolve administrative and financial powers to elected representatives at the lowest tier, the KP government had announced the schedule for local government elections, the petition stated.

But the provincial government was surprised to receive a court notice that a writ petition filed with the PHC had sought a declaration that the KP Local Government (Amendment) Act 2019 was ultra vires of the Constitution, the petition said.

It argued that the short order of Nov 2 had superimposed a “single quasi-national model” for local government elections, whereas it was desirable that every province be allowed to adopt a system of its choice. “The PHC order ignores the ground realities of different regions,” the KP government contended.

The petition said countries around the world, including India, allowed their federating units to choose a local government model in consonance with their needs and traditions.

The petition observed that the Peshawar High Court’s order had injured the “basic structure of elections practised or developed over a long period of time”.

“Non-party elections will make elected representatives more accountable to the pub­­lic and will discourage patronage politics.”

Published in Dawn, November 20th, 2021

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