KARACHI: Major opposition parties in the province suffered a major setback on Friday when the Sindh High Court dismissed their petitions seeking postponement of local government elections to be held on Sunday (tomorrow) in four of the six divisions of the province.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf had approached the SHC against demarcation and delimitations of LG constituencies, incomplete electoral rolls, etc.

After hearing lawyers from all sides, a two-judge bench comprising Justice Mohammad Junaid Ghaffar and Justice Amjad Ali Sahito dismissed the petitions along with all pending applications through a short order.

The court will record later on reasons for rejecting the petitions.

After the hearing, Sindh Election Commissioner Aijaz Anwer Chohan told reporters on SHC premises that preparations for the first phase of local government elections, to be held on Sunday (tomorrow) in Sukkur, Larkana, Mirpurkhas and Shaheed Benazirabad divisions, had been completed.

ECP ready to hold first phase of local govt elections tomorrow

Representing the MQM-P, former federal law minister Dr Farogh Naseem argued that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was in favour of holding the LG election, but the electoral rolls had not been completed yet.

He maintained that fair polls could not be conducted without verifying and rectifying electoral rolls.

While referring to some rulings of the superior judiciary, he contended that elections could not be conducted without fulfilling all legal formalities and there should be an independent body for delimitation and demarcation.

The counsel for PTI, Chaudhry Atif Rafiq, argued that the Supreme Court in its Feb 1 judgement had emphasised on empowered and meaningful local governments and legislation in this regard in the light of Article 140-A of the Constitution.

He submitted that the apex court had also issued directives for proper legislation before LG elections and also called upon suitable allocation of funds for local governments.

The law officers of ECP argued that the four-year tenure of last local governments in Sindh had expired on Aug 30, 2020 and the ECP was required to conduct elections within 120 days in accordance with Section 219(4) of the Election Act, 2017.

He added that LG elections had already been held in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

They added that the schedule of LG elections was announced after consulting all stakeholders including the Sindh government.

An assistant advocate general argued that provincial government had constituted a select committee comprising lawmakers of all the political parties for amending relevant law in line with Article 140-A and the committee had recommended postponement of LG elections to modify the Sindh Local Government Act, 2013.

After completion of the arguments, the bench in its short order states, “Heard learned counsel for the respective parties. For reasons to be recorded later on, both these petitions along with all pending applications are hereby dismissed. Office to place copy of this order in the connected petition.”

MQM-P convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui along with other party leaders had petitioned the SHC stating that the delimitation and town demarcations were made on ethnic and linguistic grounds and with mala fide considerations.

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2022

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