Friday, February 3, 2023

IHC seeks new timeline for LG polls in federal capital

IHC seeks new timeline for LG polls in federal capital

ISLAMABAD (APP) - The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Thursday instructed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to submit local government elections’ new timeline on Thursday after holding consultation with the federal government.

Justice Arbab Muhammad Tahir, who heard the petitions filed by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Jamaat-e-Islami, challenging the Commission’s notification regarding postponement of the LG elections in federal capital, also sought written arguments from the Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) and the ECP.

At the outset of hearing, the AGP said the court should ask the ECP director general as to why the elections as the government had not changed the local and had only increased the number of union councils (UCs).

He said the ECP would complete the process of delimitation of UCs within 60 days. The court asked the ECP official whether the Commission was ready to conduct the elections on December 31 as the government was referring the matter to it.

Whether the ECP’s decision did not violate the assurance it had submitted to the court regarding the LG polls, Justice Arbab questioned.

The ECP director general said it would take time to transport the election material. Holding elections on December 31 was not possible in the new situation. The court asked why not the proceedings of contempt of court should be initiated against the ECP.

The Commission’s lawyer said the election act authorized the federal government to increase the number of UCs in the capital.

The court asked whether the federal government could increase the number of UCs at anytime. The ECP lawyer said there was no restriction in that regard as the government could change the local area after consultation with the ECP.

The court said who would be responsible as the ECP had already spent around Rs 600 million on the LG electoral process. The lawyer said the money belonged to the tax payers and the Federal Government had issued the said funds.

The ECP would announce new election schedule after completing the UCs’ delimitation, he added.

Justice Arbab remarked that the court would not shift the burden to the taxpayers at any cost. He expressed annoyance with the officials and remarked that why the ECP had not produced the complete record despite orders.

The ECP DG said they would inform the court regarding the expenditure incurred so far in writing. The lawyer said the ECP had set aside the notification regarding the increase in the number of UCs, which the IHC had nullified. The ECP had postponed the elections after hearing the government as per the directives of IHC.

The AGP said how the increase in the UCs’ number had affected any right of the petitioners. He questioned whether the LG elections had been conducted in Punjab.

Setting the ECP’s order of election postponement at the stage would create problems, he added.

The court instructed the AGP and the ECP to submit their written comments to it till tomorrow. Observing that it was a simple matter and the ECP used to work in haste, it also directed the Commission to consult the government and give the timeline of elections on Friday.