KARACHI: Taking advantage of a clause in the controversial Sindh Local Government Act (SLGA) 2013, the Sindh government has itself postponed the local government election in Karachi division for 90 days and communicated it to the Election Commission of Pakistan, it emerged on Friday.

The provincial local government department sent a letter to the Sindh election commissioner stating: “The cabinet, by way of circulation, approved the proposal to postpone the local government elections 2022 in Karachi division for 90 days.

It said that the postponement was made in terms of second proviso of Section 34 of the SLGA.

The Section 34 (2) reads: “Government shall, in consultation with the Election Commission, make an announcement of the date or dates on which the election for the Councils shall be conducted in the Province or part thereof.

ECP to inform SHC about province’s decision on Monday

“Provided that the date or dates of such election shall not be less that sixty days and not more than hundred and twenty days from the date of such announcements. Provided further that Government may extend or curtail the period mentioned in this section if the circumstances so warrant.”

Although legal experts believed that the provincial government under the said section of the SLGA can only extend or curtail the period, but not empowered to postpone the local government elections.

Senior lawyer Akhtar Hussain said that as per the provisions provided in Section 34 of the SLGA, once date of election was announced, the same must not be less than 60 days and not more than 120 days and thereafter, the government may extend or curtail the period if the circumstances so warrant.

However, he said that the ECP was bound under Article 218 to hold elections and the government had no authority to postpone the elections.

Former advocate general Barrister Zameer Ghumro was also of the view that in the light of the provisions available in SLGA, the government may extend or curtail the time period, but could not postpone the same.

The provincial authorities communicated the “postponement” to the ECP on the same day when the Sindh High Court had expressed displeasure over authorities concerned for repeatedly delaying the LG elections in Karachi and Hyderabad divisions and sought details about number of personnel of police and Rangers required for election duty.

The ECP is bound to hold elections within 120 days following the end of four-year tenure of the local governments in Sindh that had expired on Aug 30, 2020.

The first phase of the LG polls in Sindh was successfully held in four divisions — Larkana, Sukkur, Mirpurkhas and Shaheed Benazirabad — earlier this year, but the second phase in Karachi and Hyderabad divisions had been postponed thrice since July.

On Oct 18, the ECP for the third time postponed the elections for an indefinite period stating that the decision was made on the request of Sindh government, provincial election commissioner and law enforcement agencies till availability of adequate security and until further orders.

Several political parties, particularly the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Jamaat-i-Islami, have already approached the SHC as well as the apex court against repeated delay and postponements of LG elections in Karachi and Hyderabad divisions.

On Nov 10, the ECP had informed the SHC that LG elections in Karachi and Hyderabad divisions could not be held the requisite security deployment was not being made available by the provincial government due to involvement of relevant personnel in flood relief operations.

When contacted, spokesperson for provincial election commissioner Ali Asghar Sial told Dawn that the SHC was due to take the case on Nov 14 and the commission will put the latest development before it.

A meeting of the ECP to decide the fate of the LG polls in Karachi division is also scheduled for Nov 15, he added.

Published in Dawn, November 12th, 2022

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