ISLAMABAD: On Thursday, the Supreme Court regretted that unpopular governments were still reluctant and unable to hold local government (LG) elections in the country and demanded that Pakistan’s Election Commission (ECP) have a detailed response to the LG polls within a week.
“Local bodies are political nurseries that help develop the country’s political leadership,” Justice Qazi Faez Isa noted when leading a two-judge bench consisting of Justice Maqbool Baqar as well.
A collection of petitions were taken up by the court, mostly by the Peshawar Municipal Corporation administrator.
The court also directed the provinces within a week to furnish their responses. Pointing to Chief Electoral Commissioner Sikander Sultan Raja, who, along with four members of the Commission, was present in court, he observed that all the country’s institutions were bound to support and collaborate with the ECP in conducting the elections.
During the hearing, the CEC maintained that, in accordance with the recommendations of the National Command and Operation Centre, local government elections could not be held on schedule (NCOC). But the court wondered by which statute the NCOC was founded and whether the ECP was a separate entity or under the NCOC.
CEC informs court that polls could not be held on time on NCOC recommendations
Justice Maqbool Baqar noted that the ECP was an independent entity and was free to ignore the NCOC’s recommendations.
Justice Isa noted that the ECP officials, who are also former judges, should be instructed by the court to read the Constitution, adding that it appeared that the ECP was subordinate to others rather than the Constitution.
As Justice Isa regretted, if the CEC did not meet its constitutional duty, it would be easier for it to resign, adding that the CEC should appease its own conscience.
The CEC, however, told the court that after formulating the necessary rules, the ECP would hold the elections.
The court also demanded that Pakistan’s attorney general inform the prime minister that the Constitution is more important than other things.
On Nov 24, 2020, Justice Isa described the absence of the local government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) as a gross disregard of the law, noting that by not conducting the LG elections, neither the chief minister nor the members of the provincial cabinet complied with the Local Government Act 2013 and the Constitution.
On 28 Aug 2019, the term of the elected members of the municipal government in the province expired.
The supreme court had lamented that the citizens appeared to be stripped of freedom, adding that the abuse had to be brought to an end. Justice Isa had noted in his order that complying with the Constitution and the law is not optional but mandatory, adding all constitutional officeholders to take oath before entering their offices, including the CEC and the representatives of the ECP, whose oath mandated them to behave ‘in conformity with the Constitution and the law.’