Hold LG polls in Islamabad today, IHC tells ECP

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Sanaullah says LG elections not possible before four months, refuses to assist ECP; Order should be ‘implementable’; Govt to challenge court decision

The Islamabad High Court on Friday directed the Election Commission of Pakistan to hold local body elections in the federal capital today (Saturday) but on the other hand Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said that the federal government was not in a position to hold local government elections in Islamabad in such a short period.

The verdict was pronounced by IHC Justice Arbab Muhammad Tahir, who was hearing identical petitions filed by the PTI and the Jamaat-i-Islami against the ECP’s decision announced earlier this week.

In a short order, the court set aside Election Commission of Pakistan’s order dated Dec 27. “The Election Commission of Pakistan is directed to hold the local government elections in the Islamabad Capital Territory as per the schedule already announced i.e. on 31.12.2022,” it said.

The court also ordered the federal government to provide complete assistance to the electoral body for conducting the local bodies’ elections as mandated by the Constitution.

The court ordered the election watchdog to hold elections in 101 union councils of the federal capital on its scheduled date.

Earlier in the day, Justice Arbab Muhammad Tahir had reserved the decision on the petitions against the ECP’s decision to postpone the polls.

stan’s order dated Dec 27. “The Election Commission of Pakistan is directed to hold the local government elections in the Islamabad Capital Territory as per the schedule already announced i.e. on 31.12.2022,” it said.

The court also ordered the federal government to provide complete assistance to the electoral body for conducting the local bodies’ elections as mandated by the Constitution.

The court ordered the election watchdog to hold elections in 101 union councils of the federal capital on its scheduled date.

Earlier in the day, Justice Arbab Muhammad Tahir had reserved the decision on the petitions against the ECP’s decision to postpone the polls.

During the hearing of the case, the ECP had agreed to hold local body elections in seven to 10 days but held the provincial and federal governments responsible for not holding local body elections on time in Islamabad.

The electoral watchdog made the remark in its written response submitted to the IHC in a case pertaining to the postponement of LB elections in the capital.

But minutes after the court’s directives to conduct LG polls today (December 31), Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said the federal government is not in a position to hold local government elections in Islamabad.

“We respect the court (Islamabad High Court), but holding the elections is not possible as the arrangements cannot be made in such a short period,” the federal minister told a private news channel.

He added that as many as 1,000 polling stations needed security, election material is still not deployed at the stations and the polling staff will also be needed. “This isn’t possible.”

The minister also added that since the “ground realities” do not permit the government to ensure the polls take place, the centre was going to file an intra-court appeal against the order. The federal government has prepared for filing the intra-court appeal. It has obtained the attested copy of the verdict.

“The order was issued in the evening after office hours. How is it possible to make the arrangements for the [elections]? What can be a more strong reason than this,” Sanaullah said when asked about what his hopes were about the petition’s acceptance.

The minister said he was not surprised by the order, but noted that directions should be “implementable” and the latest IHC order will ensure “that the elections do not take place”.

Sanaullah said a new schedule should be issued for the polls, and there is no other way to hold the elections as he ruled out assisting the Election Commission.