Delay in elections in ICT: Violation of Constitution, Law
DUE to the notification issued by the Ministry of Interior without consultation of Election Commission of Pakistan about increasing the number of union councils from 50 to 101, uncertainty prevails over holding of local government elections in Islamabad as the Election Commission of Pakistan sought time to come up with a solution to settle the issue of delimitation.
The Chief Justice of Islamabad High Court directed the ECP to clear its position and take a categorical stance on the petition filed against holding of the local government elections on the basis of updated delimitation of 50 Union Councils instead of recently notified 101 Union Councils.
The focus of all the three petitions was the Election Commission of Pakistan’s notification to hold the local government elections in 50 Union Councils of Islamabad.
The Ministry of Interior has issued a notification, increasing the number of the Union Councils from 50 to 101.
The ECP had on June 2 issued a schedule for holding the elections in 50 Union Councils of the Islamabad Capital Territory on July 31, under the schedule; over 1000 candidates had obtained nomination papers from the Regional Election Commission Office.
The Director General Law, ECP, pointed out that Islamabad High Court had previously set aside a Presidential Ordinance on the Islamabad Capital Territory’s Local Government Act and directed the ECP to hold the elections in accordance with the Local Government Act 2015.
It was the narrative of DG Law, ECP that the ECP had finalized arrangements for holding the LG elections and issued the schedule accordingly.
However, the government has recently increased the number of the Union Councils in Islamabad.
The court observed that the ECP is under obligation to hold elections in accordance with the notified UCs by the federal government.
The local government elections in the federal capital have been postponed for a couple of months as the Election Commission of Pakistan has expressed willingness to complete delimitation of 101 Union Councils.
The demand for this was raised by major political parties including PML-N, PPP and PTI. The court had referred the matter for consideration of the ECP because of prima facie, appeared that the election schedule could only have been issued pursuant to the publication of notification under sub-section 1 of section 6 of the Act of 2015.
The determination of Union Councils as 101, made by the Federal Government was to be acted upon followed by the procedure described under section 5 and 7 of the Act of 2015.
The court noted that Article 140-A explicitly states that the local government system shall be established and the local administrative and financial responsibility and authority shall be developed to the elected representatives of the local governments.
Sub Article 2 makes it a constitutional obligation of the ECP to hold the local government elections.
It is pertinent to mention here that the Election Commission has already completed the process of delimitation thrice in Islamabad Capital Territory for conducting elections.
However, every time this has been done, tactics have been used to change the law through promulgation of Ordinance.
It is the duty of the Election Commission to conduct local government elections within 120 days after the expiry of the Councils.
Directions have been issued by the Supreme Court of Pakistan and Islamabad High Court for conducting elections in Islamabad Capital Territory and all the provinces as early as possible and delay would be against the spirit of the constitution and orders of the court.
The Election Commission of Pakistan has directed the federal government not to make further changes in law and number of councils as further delay in elections not only involves the loss of public exchequer but is also a violation of the command of the constitution and law and the judgment of the apex court which requires such election to be within the timeframe of 120 days.
The Chief Justice of Islamabad High Court has also directed the government and all other organs of the state to assist and facilitate the Election Commission in fulfilling its obligations.
In case, the government fails in its duty to assist the Election Commission in completing the process, then it shall be at liberty to file an application for restoration of these applications.
Major opposition parties in the province of Sindh suffered a major setback on 24 June when the Sindh High Court dismissed their petitions seeking postponement of local government elections to be held on 26th June in four of six divisions of the province.
—The writer is former Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan and currently Chairman National Democratic Foundation.