ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court Wednesday ruled that the second phase of local bodies elections in Sindh would be held on schedule on Aug 28, 2022.
The court gave the ruling while disposing of the petition of Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQMP) seeking postponement of the elections. A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial and comprising Justice Syed Mansoor Ali Shah and Justice Ayesha A Malik, disposed of the petition, directing the MQMP to approach the Provincial Delimitation Authority and Election Commission of Pakistan.
The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) and Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) supported holding of the second phase of local elections in Sindh but stressed for implementation of the SC directions. The MQMP through its counsel Barrister Farogh Naseem had challenged before the Supreme Court delimitations in Sindh for local elections.
“No court of law can decide a local dispute, hence the petitioner should approach the local competent authority,” the court said in its order During the course of hearing, Chief Justice Umer Ata Bandial said that it had become clear that delimitations were carried out by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the local administration.
Sindh Advocate-General Hassan Khan said that criteria for delimitations had specifically been laid down by the Sindh High Court in 2016. He said the petitioner did not avail the remedy from the Delimitation Committee.
“But they have also challenged all the notifications issued by the provincial government under Section 10(1) of the Sindh Local Government Act (SLGA), 2013, whereby the number of constituencies have been determined,” Justice Ayesha A Malik said.
The AG said that the basic issue being taken up by the political parties was for election of mayor, adding both the provincial government and the ECP work jointly. He said under the ECP directions, the provincial government had changed delimitations.
The CJP said that one had to guide the ECP on delimitation process. “The provincial officers should guide us on factors that led to variations in delimitations,” the CJP said. The Sindh local government secretary said they had carried out the whole exercise in the province, adding they have also involved the Hyderabad deputy commissioner to ensure that no boundary is crossed over.
The Hyderabad additional deputy commissioner said they had followed the ECP guidelines. “The issue was not only of elections but also of development schemes and allocation of funds,” the CJP said. He said the court had received complaints from interior Sindh where two districts were joined to make one constituency while there were also cases of giving two constituencies to one district.
“It is because of these reasons that a separate province is being sought for south Punjab due to lack of proper representation and non-provision of funds,” the CJP said, adding at some point they will listen to the ECP on this matter. The CJP said that it had become clear that the local administration in coordination with the ECP carried out delimitations but the basis for the exercise was not clear.
The AG said that the provincial government had formulated guidelines for delimitations in accordance with the judgment of the apex court The CJP said that they could not give decision on the points that had already been raised before the Sindh High Court, therefore, it would be appropriate for the MQMP to fight case on a relevant forum. The CJP then called Barrister Farogh Naseem and PTI counsel Salahuddin to the rostrum.
“We have asked you to read the judgment of the Sindh High Court,” the CJP asked Farogh Naseem. The CJP said that the high court had also held that the MQMP filed the amended petition a few days before the local elections in the province
“Sir please listen to me I want to make some submissions,” Farogh Naseem submitted but the CJP continued and said that no point regarding counting or no counting of votes was raised before the learned high court. “But bear in mind that we cannot stop the elections and we don’t want to take the decision unilaterally by exercising our original jurisdiction under Article 184(3) of the Constitution”, the CJP told Farogh Naseem.
“It is better you should sit with the Delimitation Committee or with the Election Commission of Pakistan and resolve the matter,” the CJP told the counsel. “Or do you want that the matter be remanded back to the high court,” the CJP said.
Salahuddin Ahmed, counsel for the PTI on video link from the Karachi Registry, supported holding of the second phase of local elections. He, however, said that the provincial government should implement in letter and spirit the judgment of the apex court of February, 2022.
“We are not in a position to consider this but you are allowed to file a suit for the implementation of our judgment”, the CJP told Salahuddin. Former AGP Khalid Javed on behalf candidates, who were elected unopposed in the first phase of local elections, told the court that KP and Punjab governments determined the size of union committees, adding that delimitations were carried out keeping in view population and other factors. He submitted that the ECP was not empowered to change the volume of constituencies, adding it was to be determined by the Constitution and law.
JI Karachi Amir Naeemur Rehman also supported the second phase of local bodies elections, saying the issue of voters lists and census has not yet been settled. The CJP asked him to file a petition in the high court.
Dr Fehmida Mirza told the court that she had not come to the court on a personal matter but to represent the people of Badin whose rights had been infringed upon. She said that there were ground realities regarding one ward in her constituency wherein some 2,000 voters were replaced with voters from outside. She submitted that the people were losing faith in the election process.
The CJP asked her to file a petition and said that they would look into it. “In our view, the ECP is working hard and recently it has fulfilled its constitutional obligation by holding by-elections in Punjab.”
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The reference was filed by the Election Commission of Pakistan in November