LAHORE: The Lahore High Court on Monday suspended the schedule for the first phase of local government elections in Punjab and sought detailed replies from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and other relevant authorities.

A two-judge bench comprising Justice Shujaat Ali Khan and Justice Shahid Jamil Khan issued the stay order on a petitions challenging the LG poll schedule, filed by LHC Bar Association President Sardar Akbar Dogar, MPA Syeda Maimanat Mohsin, better known as Jugnu Mohsin, former Jhang district council chairman Babar Ali Khan and others.

Advocate Mobeenuddin Qazi, on behalf of the petitioners, argued that the proceedings initiated by the ECP, including the election schedule for the conduct of the first phase of LG polls 2022, under the temporary legislation “The Punjab Local Government Ordinance, 2021” without awaiting its culmination into a permanent enactment by the provincial assembly, was unconstitutional. He pointed out that the draft rules under the legislation for the conduct of the LG polls had not been approved by the Punjab cabinet.

The counsel contended that Article 140 of the Constitution empowered the province to establish a local government system by law. Since promulgation of the law fell in the exclusive jurisdiction and domain of the provincial government and the provincial assembly, the ECP could not encroach upon that constitutional domain and jurisdiction, he said, explining that the ECP could not assume the role of legislature or the government.

Order follows Multan bench week-long stay order on similar challenge

He argued that the ECP had no other option but to wait for culmination of the temporary legislation into a permanent enactment by the Punjab Assembly, or its repeal at expiration of its extended period on June 10, a day after the scheduled poll.

While suspending the election schedule, the bench sought replies from the ECP, provincial secretary for local government and secretary of the Punjab Assembly by May 24.

Earlier on April 21, the Multan bench of the high court had stayed the first phase of the LG polls on petitions, moved by three petitioners from Sahiwal, Vehari and Khanewal, and sought replies from the ECP officials within a week.

Also in Sindh, the first phase of LG polls was challenged in the Sindh High Court.

In its petition, the PTI argued that the ECP had issued its notification in violation of an apex court decision on the Sindh Local Government Act and sought a restraining order until the new LG law was enacted in the light of the SC order.

Published in Dawn, April 26th, 2022

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