KARACHI / ISLAMABAD: The Sindh High Court on Tuesday issued notices to the Election Commission of Pakistan and others on a petition of the opposition Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf seeking postponement of the local government elections in Sindh.

Earlier, the Supreme Court in Islamabad had rejected the same petition moved by the PTI seeking to set aside the May 11 decision of the ECP to hold the first phase of LG polls on June 26 in 14 districts of four divisions in Sindh.

Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan of the SC, in his chamber order, observed that the petitioner can also seek relief from the high court.

Consequently, the PTI, through its provincial president Ali Zaidi and some MPAs, moved the SHC against the notifications issued by the ECP to hold LG elections in Sindh in two phases and argued that the same were issued without lawful authority and in violation of the Supreme Court judgement that declared various provisions of Sindh Local Government Act (SLGA), 2013 ultra vires of the constitution.

SHC issues notices to ECP for tomorrow

A two-judge SHC bench headed by Justice Muhammad Junaid Ghaffar asked the ECP, provincial LG department and other respondents to file comments till June 23 (tomorrow) as a petition of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, filed against delimitation and demarcation process for LG polls in the province, was already fixed for hearing on Thursday.

The counsel for the petitioners argued that the PTI had approached the SC against the scheduled LG elections and the apex court directed them to approach the proper forum first.

The petitioners have challenged the ECP notifications announcing schedule for conducting local government elections in the first phase in Sukkur, Larkana, Shaheed Benazirabad and Mirpurkhas divisions of the province on June 26, and in the second phase in Karachi and Hyderabad divisions on July 24.

The petitioners contended that the LG elections could not be conducted until new LG law was enacted in the light of the apex court judgement as they asserted that the elections under the SLGA 2013 was not only a futile exercise, but also wastage of financial resources.

They further argued that in its Feb 1 judgement, the apex court had emphasised on Article 140-A of the Constitution to set up LGs possessing meaningful authority and struck down Sections 74 and 75(1) of SLGA 2013.

The petitioners pleaded to set aside impugned notifications, and also sought declaration that any local government elections prior to the compliance with the Feb 1 directions of the Supreme Court would not constitute elections to elect representatives of the local government within the meaning of Article 140-A of the constitution.

They also sought directives for Sindh government to ensure SLGA 2013 be made in line with requirements of 140-A and the judgement of apex court.

On May 9, the SHC had dismissed a petition of Grand Democratic Alliance challenging ECP’s notification for the first phase of LG polls in Sindh and PTI had also withdrawn an identical petition in order to approach the SC.

The PTI approached the SC, but the court office had returned its petition on the grounds that the political party had directly approached the Supreme Court instead of availing appropriate forum or the courts below.

Consequently, the PTI challenged the returning of the petition by the court office. Advocate Chaudhry Atif Rafiq represented the petitioner and argued that the office objections were misconceived since questions of public importance was raised through the petition involving fundamental rights.

However, the apex court allowed the petitioner to approach afresh the competent forum for the redressal of their grievance.

Published in Dawn, June 22nd, 2022

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