ISLAMABAD: Local government elections, which are slated to be held in Islamabad on July 31, could face a delay as the ruling PML-N and PPP have decided to increase the number of union councils from the current 50 to 101.

On Monday, the Ministry of Interior issued a notification, increasing the numbers of the union councils.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had on June 2 issued a schedule for holding elections in 50 union councils of the capital on July 31.

Under the schedule, over 1,000 people had obtained nomination papers from the district election office.

On the other hand, the two ruling parties recently filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court (IHC), seeking a delay in the elections till the delimitation of the constituencies.

PML-N, PPP want number of union councils increased from 50 to 101

The court will take up the petition on Wednesday. If the court accepts the new notification of increasing union councils, sources in the ECP said, the election body will have to carry out a delimitation of the 101 UCs before issuing a new election schedule. In such a case, the LG elections could be delayed by a few months.

The sources said after issuance of the local government schedule last week, the ruling PML-N and PPP had approached the IHC, seeking a revised election schedule after increasing the number of the UCs to 101.

When the petitioners were asked if a notification had been published in the Gazette of Pakistan, the petitioners replied in the negative.

The petitioners then withdrew the case after stating that they would get the notification published in gazette of Pakistan.

Subsequently, the Ministry of Interior on Monday (June 13) issued the notification increasing the number of union councils from 50 to 101. Now, the case will be heard in the IHC again on Wednesday (today).

The sources in the ECP said the election body had already issued an election schedule for 50 union councils and polls were slated to be held on July 31, adding if the court endorsed the notification the ECP will have to go for a new delimitation before holding the elections.

An official of the ECP wishing not to be named said fixing the number of UCs was the prerogative of the federal government “but the notification should have been issued before the issuance of the election schedule.”

A PTI local leader and former opposition leader in the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI) Raja Sheraz Kiani said the ruling parties had been using delaying tactics as they could not face the public in the local government elections because of high inflation and massive increase in petrol prices.

“We are also in favour of increasing the number of UCs but when the election schedule had already been issued, the PML-N and PPP government should not have issued the notification,” he said.

On the other hand, PML-N leader and former deputy mayor Syed Zeeshan Naqvi said his party wanted an effective local government system in Islamabad, therefore, the increase in the number of UCs was imperative.

The local government completed its five-year term in February 2021 and elections were slated to be held within three months, but they were not held as the PTI government wanted to get the polls conducted on the basis of a new delimitation.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2022

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