ISLAMABAD: The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) on Monday told the Supreme Court that Section 10(1) of the Sindh Local Government Act (SLGA), 2013, was discriminatory as it deprived the party of any opportunity to have its own mayor to serve Karachi and other cities of the province.
Representing the petitioner, MQM Convenor Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, Barrister Dr Farogh Naseem argued before the top court that through section 10(1) of the SLGA, the Sindh government had violated the Supreme Court’s 2014 directions in which the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was empowered to delimit local government constituencies under Article 140-A, 218 and 222 of the Constitution and the federal, Sindh and Punjab governments were asked to make laws to enable the ECP to delimit constituencies of local governments.
Headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Umar Ata Bandial, the Supreme Court bench also comprising Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Ayesha Malik, had taken up a set of petitions filed by MQM, PTI and others against the SLGA.
The counsel said that an attempt had been made to reduce voters’ strength in areas where Muttahida Qaumi Movement was in popularity, adding that for election of mayor, the petitioner’s one basic constituency votes had been made equal to three basic constituencies votes of PPPP.
SLGA-2013 deprives Muttahida of any opportunity to have its own mayor in Karachi, SC told
Presenting a comprehensive chart of different districts of Karachi, Hyderabad and Mirpurkhas, the counsel said that the population variation of different union councils (UCs) were well beyond the scope of permissible and accepted 10pc variation under Section 20(3 and 4) of the Elections Act, 2017, that too without assigning any reason.
To substantiate his claim, the counsel cited the example of District West, Karachi, where eight UCs have been created in Orangi Town for a population of 697,233, nine UCs of Mominabad for a population of 417,460 and 16 UCs of Manghopir for a population of 909,340.
The average population of Orangi Town, the counsel said, was 82,000 per UC, 50,000 per UC in Mominabad and 55,000 per UC in Manghopir.
“Thus in places where the petitioner (MQM) is popular, constituencies have been created on a large population count like 70,000 to 90,000, whereas places where the petitioner has less vote bank, constituencies of 30,000 or 40,000 population count have been created,” the counsel said.
Through Section 10(1) of the Sindh Local Government Act, the counsel said, the government had been given authority to determine or create basic constituencies, inter alia, union councils and union committees, adding that the chairmen of UCs constituted the electoral college for the election of the mayor or head of the municipal/metropolitan corporations.
“This classic case of gerrymandering orchestrated through Section 10(1) of the SLGA,” the counsel regretted, was unlawful and unconstitutional delimitation beyond the permissible 10pc population, done at a very large scale by delimitation committees.
The case will be taken up again on Tuesday (today).
Published in Dawn, August 16th, 2022