ISLAMABAD: The federal government on Wednesday explained in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) that due to change in the federal capital’s territorial limits and demography, increase in union councils was indispensable. The court, however, observed that the government’s power was not absolute.
Additional Attorney General Aamir Rehman apprised the two-member division bench of the IHC, comprising Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Saman Rafat Imtiaz, the reasons that led the federal government to increase the number of union councils from 101 to 125.
At the outset, Justice Farooq questioned “the need for increasing the number of union councils”, and observed that the single member bench had observed that the government had brought nothing to the court to justify this increase.
It may be mentioned here that the bench was hearing the intra-court appeal against the order of a single member bench comprising Justice Arbab Mohammad Tahir that directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Dec 30 to hold local government (LG) elections on Dec 31.
Additional attorney general says capital’s territorial limits have changed; court observes govt power not absolute
Mr Rehman explained the background of legislation related to the local government of Islamabad. He said that previously, LG elections were scheduled to be held in rural areas of Islamabad and after promulgation of Islamabad Capital Territory Local Government Act, 2015 the jurisdiction of LG extended to urban areas as well.
He said that the 2015 elections were held in 50 union councils. The previous government of Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) in 2021 promulgated the ordinance for direct election of mayor and creating the UC for 20,000 citizens.
Mr Rehman argued that IHC on March 16, 2022 scrapped this ordinance and the ECP issued a schedule to hold LG elections on 50 union councils.
According to him, the government increased the number of UCs to 101 adding that there was a dire need to increase them as boundaries of the federal capital have been re-defined.
He said that fresh demarcation of Islamabad has been done on the direction of a Supreme Court order passed in the case of Bahria Town’s encroachments.
Mr Rehman argued that PTI did not seek relief of setting aside the notification of increase in UCs in the earlier round of litigation and this prayer was added in the second round of litigation and even after the division bench had dismissed their appeals.
He argued that the IHC on Dec 22 asked the ECP to examine the issue of increase in UCs.
Justice Farooq on the other hand remarked that the ECP went in an altogether different direction and was still waiting for conversion of a bill related to the local government into legislation.
The court then adjourned further hearing till Feb 7.
Published in Dawn, February 2nd, 2023
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