ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) on Thursday challenged before the Supreme Court the July 6 Sindh High Court (SHC) verdict of refusing to delay the local government elections, and sought immediate compliance of the apex court’s Feb 1 directions regarding an empowered local government system before Aug 28.

Polling for the second phase of the LG election in Karachi and Hyderabad divisions is scheduled to be held on Aug 28.

Senior counsel Salahuddin Ahmed, who filed the petition before the apex court in Islamabad, told Dawn that emphasis had been made in the petition that without meaningful devolution of powers for the empowerment of elected local governments by the Sindh government and implementation of democracy at the grass-roots level as directed by the Supreme Court, the proposed elections for local government in Sindh will be rendered a meaningless ritual and would not comply with the mandate of Article 140-A of the Constitution.

The petition, moved jointly by PTI lawmakers Rabia Azfar Nizami and Sidra Imran, cited the Sindh government and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) as respondent.

The petition argued that the scheme of Article 140-A (1) (2) of the Constitution and the Feb 1 judgement of the apex court necessitated a prior and meaningful devolution of political, administrative and financial powers to local governments before elections were held.

“It is both the right and duty of political parties and their candidates to understand exactly what are the political, administrative and financial powers, responsibilities and resources of the office they are contesting elections for. Only once they have clarity on that, can the political parties select the best candidate for the job and prepare their manifestos and design their campaign accordingly,” the petition argued.

“Similarly, it is the right of voters to properly understand the role and functions of the office they are voting for and choose the appropriate candidate for the job. Elections to offices that presently possess no real power do not excite public interest and have low electoral turnout,” the petitioners said, adding that such a state of affairs invariably favours the ruling party in Sindh which was possessed of all the advantages of incumbency.

“As such, by rushing ahead with elections without first making the legislative amendments required to devolve political, financial and administrative power to local governments — the value of the elections themselves has and is being undermined,” the petition contended.

The petitioners argued that the Supreme Court through its Feb 1 judgement had ordered to amend a number of provincial laws, which had wrongly vested powers essentially belonging to local governments in the hands of provincial government.

“But not a single amendment has been made to any of these laws,” the petition regretted.

They added that despite the elections, the newly elected local government representative would be devoid of any meaningful power or responsibilities and waste the majority of their term just trying to wrest their due powers, responsibilities and resources from the clutches of the provincial government.

Published in Dawn, August 5th, 2022

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