Saturday June 22, 2024

SHC issues notice to ECP on MQM plea against delimitations

By Our Correspondent
October 26, 2022

The Sindh High Court on Tuesday issued notices to the Election Commission of Pakistan and others on an urgent application for hearing a petition filed by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan against the delimitations of union councils in the districts of Karachi.

MQM-P leader Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui and others maintained that the provincial election commission had failed to adhere to the principles laid down by the SC for conducting delimitations of constituencies for holding local government polls in Karachi.

They stated that there were certain requirements as per the Sindh LG law for the declaration of towns, but those conditions had not been fulfilled. Also, the population criteria for the formation of union councils and town councils had been violated despite objections raised by the petitioners, they said.

They submitted that the ECP did not adhere to the principles laid down for delimitations of constituencies in Orangi Town, Shah Faisal Colony, Ibrahim Haidery and North Nazimabad areas’ union councils. The court was requested to direct the ECP to conduct fresh delimitations of the constituencies of union councils after taking into considerations the objections raised by the petitioners.

The petitioners stated that the select committee, constituted for the purpose of amending the Local Government Act, had also decided that LG elections could be held only after making necessary reforms in the law.

The court granting the urgent hearing issued notices to the ECP and directed the parties to submit their replies by November 15. The MQM-P had also filed a petition in the SHC, seeking implementation of the SC order with regard to the LG law. They said in the petition that the SC had directed the provincial government to establish a local administration that possessed meaningful authority and responsibility in the political arena, and in administrative and financial matters.

They also said that the SC had observed that it was the duty of a province, through the provincial government and the provincial assembly, to purposefully empower local governments so as to comply with their mandatory obligation under Article 140-A of the Constitution.

Why polls were postponed

The Sindh High Court (SHC) on Tuesday directed the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to file comments on a petition against the consecutive deferments of the local government polls in Karachi.

During the hearing of a petition filed by the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf against another delay in the LG elections in the city, a law officer of the ECP filed a notification on behalf of the commission.

The notification said the October 23 elections were postponed on the request of the Sindh government, the law enforcement agencies (LEAs) and the provincial election commissioner until the availability of adequate security and further orders.

The petitioners’ counsel said the ECP had put off the LG polls for the third consecutive time without announcing a new date. They said the ECP not holding the LG elections was a mala fide act and against the constitutional mandate.

An SHC division bench headed by Chief Justice Ahmed Ali M Sheikh directed the ECP and other respondents to file their comments on the petition by November 4, saying that the court would pass an order after hearing their counsels.

The petitioners had said that the term of the last local bodies had expired in August 2020, but instead of holding the elections, the Sindh government had appointed administrators throughout the province.

They said the provincial government was reluctant to hold the LG polls and it had deliberately delayed the delimitation process by not providing suggestions, details and the required maps for the delimitation of union committees in accordance with the LG law and the Election Act.

They also said the ECP was bound by the constitution to conduct the LG elections within 120 days of the end of the previous term of the local bodies. They further said the ECP’s decision to postpone the polls was arbitrary, and the provincial government was uninterested in holding the elections to retain its control over the authorities and resources of the municipal institutions. They requested the court to direct the ECP to hold the polls in Karachi immediately.