ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday issued a stay order against holding elections for Islamabad’s mayor under temporary legislation and advised the government to conduct the polls through an Act of parliament.

The ruling PTI had invited applications for the slot from its candidates till Feb 19.

Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani while hearing identical petitions filed against the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Local Government Ordinance 2021 remarked that an ordinance could only be issued in an extreme emergency situation when the parliament’s sessions could not be possible to convene.

The judge questioned how the LG ordinance was promulgated while the parliament was in session.

A counsel for the federal government replied that the parliament session was prorogued on Nov 19 and the ordinance was promulgated on Nov 23.

He said since the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had set the deadline of Nov 25 for making a law on the LG government, the law was promulgated through a presidential ordinance.

According to him, the ECP had asked the interior ministry to make the law in 10 days.

Justice Kayani remarked that the court could pass a restraining order for the ECP and advised the federal government to lay the law in the parliament.

Under the ordinance, the local government elections in the federal capital are proposed to be held in May this year.

Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI) ceased to exist on Feb 15, 2021, after completing its five-year terms. The last LG elections held in Nov 2015 were won by the PML-N.

Now the PTI government has promulgated the presidential ordinance for holding the LG elections.

According to the petitions, the ordinance was time-barred legislation that had serious consequences for the provinces of Pakistan whose resources were used to build the federal capital. Legislation of this nature and its implications both in terms of assets, finances and job prospects for the federating units should have been debated in parliament, it stated.

The petitions alleged that it was absurd to elect an entire tier of the federation upon the basis of mere temporary law, adding a law of this nature, which cannot possibly provide tenure protection to the elected local government, falls short of the requirements of Article 140.

It contended that the law was patently in excess of the mandate of Article 89 of the Constitution whose scope was limited to emergency legislation.

The petitions said the ordinance was promulgated without fulfilling necessary formalities.

It said the ordinance “introduced an altogether new structure of the local government in Islamabad and created multiple tiers within the local government. In doing so, they have provided a mechanism for direct election of the mayor of Islamabad, no deputy mayor, created an ICT Council which would be an un-elected nominated body of members to be appointed/nominated by political parties, and neighbourhood councils which had no direct link even with the mayor of Islamabad.”

The petitions contended that the ordinance had repealed a law that was based upon an Act of parliament.

Published in Dawn, February 11th, 2022

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