The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Monday approved for hearing the government and the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) intra-court appeals against the court’s verdict of holding local government (LG) elections in the capital.
On Friday, the IHC had directed the ECP to hold local government elections in the capital city the next day and set aside the commission’s notification on the postponement of the polls. However, the elections were not held on Saturday, and instead, the federal government had announced that it would file an appeal against the IHC’s decision.
Sources in the ECP had told Dawn that it was impossible to move thousands of staff, assign them duties and transport ballot papers in one day.
A two-member IHC bench headed by IHC Chief Justice Aamer Farooq and comprising Justice Saman Rafat Imtiaz heard the intra-court appeals today.
Approving the appeals for hearing, the IHC issued notices to the respondents, including PTI leader Ali Nawaz Awan and Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) leader Mian Aslam, summoning them on Jan 9 — delaying the LG polls in the capital until then at least.
The court also dismissed the ECP’s plea to suspend the IHC single bench’s verdict.
The hearing Advocate Mian Abdul Rauf was present as the ECP’s counsel while the ECP secretary and law director general (DG) were also in attendance.
At the outset of the hearing, the IHC CJ asked, “Where is the federation? Remind the federation as well.”
When the ECP law DG came on the rostrum, Justice Farooq said that he wanted to hear their lawyer’s argument first.
At this point during the hearing, the federal government’s legal team — consisting of Additional Attorney General (AG) Munawar Iqbal Duggal, Deputy AG Arshad Mehmood Kiyani and Islamabad AG Barrister Jahangir Khan Jadoon — also appeared in the court.
Beginning his arguments, ECP advocate Rauf said: “A bill was passed by the parliament,” referring to the bill proposing to increase the number of Union Councils (UCs) in the capital from 101 to 125, which was returned unsigned by the president on Sunday.
To this, Justice Farooq replied, “This bill has not even been declared an act yet.”. The IHC CJ asked if the bill had been passed before the ECP decided to hold elections.
The CJ further said: “The question is that elections could not be delayed because of a single bill,” adding that the bill had not been turned into law yet.
Rauf responded that the bill had been passed by both houses, referring to the National Assembly and the Senate.
He mentioned that there were “possibilities [of the question] that under which law would the mayor and the deputy mayor be elected”.
Meanwhile, the additional AG said, “The notification issued on December 19 has not been challenged, not even in this petition.”
Maintaining otherwise, Justice Farooq responded that the said notification had been challenged. The IHC CJ pointed out that none of the parties was addressing the actual constitutional matters raised in the matter.
“You both [parties] are disadvantaging yourselves [as you] did not bring a single thing in front of the court.”
Justice Farooq said the hearing could be held some other day after the parties prepared their arguments.