ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court regretted on Thursday that unpopular governments were always hesitant and unwilling to hold local government (LG) elections in the country and asked the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to furnish a comprehensive reply within a week on holding the LG polls.
“Local bodies are political nurseries which help develop political leadership for the country,” observed Justice Qazi Faez Isa while heading a two-judge bench also consisting of Justice Maqbool Baqar.
The court had taken up a set of petitions mainly by the administrator Municipal Corporation Peshawar.
The court also ordered the provinces to furnish their replies in a week. Pointing towards Chief Election Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja, who was present in the court along with four members of the commission, he observed that all institutions of the country were bound to assist and cooperate with the ECP in the holding of the elections.
During the hearing, the CEC maintained that the local government elections could not be held on time in line with recommendations of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC). But the court wondered under which law NCOC had been created and whether ECP was an independent institution or under the NCOC.
CEC informs court that polls could not be held on time on NCOC recommendations
Justice Maqbool Baqar observed that the ECP was an autonomous body and can disregard the suggestions of the NCOC.
Justice Isa remarked that should the court tell members of the ECP, who are also retired judges, to read the Constitution, adding it seemed the ECP was subordinate to others than the Constitution.
If the CEC cannot fulfil the constitutional obligation, it would be better for him to resign, Justice Isa regretted, adding the CEC should satisfy his own conscience.
The CEC, however, assured the court that the ECP would hold the elections after formulating the required laws.
The court also asked the attorney general for Pakistan to tell the prime minister that the Constitution was more important than other things.
On Nov 24, 2020, Justice Isa had described the absence of the local government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) as a brazen disregard of the law, observing that neither the chief minister nor the provincial cabinet members were abiding by the Local Government Act 2013 and the Constitution by not holding the LG elections.
The term of the elected local government representatives in the province expired on Aug 28, 2019.
Thus the people continue to be deprived of democracy, the apex court had regretted, adding the violation must be brought to an end. To abide by the Constitution and the law is not optional but obligatory, Justice Isa had observed in his order, adding all constitutional officeholders before entering their offices take oath, including the CEC and the members of the ECP, whose oath required them to act ‘in accordance with the Constitution and the law.’
Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2021