The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Tuesday postponed “for the time being” local government elections in Islamabad that were scheduled to be held on Dec 31.

A five-member bench headed by Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja made the decision while hearing the matter in Islamabad.

In a short order posted on Twitter, the ECP said: “Keeping in view the legal provisions & the judgment of the Honourable High Court, Islamabad dated 23/12/2022 regarding the subject matter. Local Government Election in ICT scheduled to be held on 31/12/2022 is hereby postponed for the time being.”

It does not specify when they will be held.

The Islamabad High Court (IHC) had on Dec 23 directed the ECP to hear all stakeholders before deciding on holding local government elections in the federal capital.

The IHC had issued the directives while hearing a set of petitions filed by the PTI, Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and a candidate of PML-N about the election schedule, voters and candidates of different union councils related to voters’ list, as well as the aggrieved parties that challenged the recent ECP order to reject government decision regarding number of union councils.

On Dec 23, the Senate also passed a bill, increasing the number of UCs in Islamabad amid strong protest from the opposition. The increase in the UCs required new delimitations — a process that could take several months to complete.

As the ECP took up the case for hearing today, PTI’s counsel Babar Awan noted that the bill passed by the parliament did not have the signatures of the president, hence it was yet to attain the status of the law. He said the ECP must hold LG elections as per the law.

He emphasised that the government should never be an authority in the matter of postponing polls.

Awan argued that no changes could be made to laws once the election date was announced.

JI’s lawyer Hasan Jawed said the ECP was responsible for holding polls on time and that any government intervention was tantamount to limiting the commission’s authority.

CEC Raja said the court had also asked for the assessment of the UCs in the federal capital.

However, JI’s counsel pointed out that there was no restriction in the decision of the IHC that barred the ECP from deciding on the matter.

After hearing the arguments, the ECP reserved its verdict before issuing a short order, postponing the polls “for the time being” in Islamabad.

Reacting to the ECP decision, PTI leader Fawad Chaudhry claimed the ECP took an unconstitutional to “help the poor government” as the latter was “even afraid” of conducting local government elections“.

He called upon institutions to support people and not jeopardise the country’s solidarity and security for the “corrupt gang”.

Meanwhile, former PPP senator Mustafa Nawaz Khokhar said that the people of Islamabad had been deprived of their rights.

“This is the situation of the so-called democratic parties that are not at all interested in solving and empowering people,” he tweeted.

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