ISLAMABAD - With the provinces sleeping over new legislation required for delimitations of constituencies and the election authorities seeking more time to complete the ground work after the enactment of new laws, the local bodies elections do not seem to be taking place this year.
The Supreme Court, in its decision on March 19, had asked the federal and provincial governments (of Sindh and Punjab) to come up with new legislation on delimitations in five months, and ruled also that only the ECP was mandated to carry out delimitations in federal and provincial constituencies.
The court had given 45 days to the ECP to complete the demarcation of constituencies after the federal and provincial governments make required legal changes. But ECP Additional Secretary Sher Afgan told The Nation on Sunday, “It is impossible to complete the delimitation in just 45 days. The ECP has requested the Supreme Court to give six months for this job. So far the provinces have not moved an inch on making new laws.”
ECP Director General Afzal Khan told this reporter, “The ECP is solely dependent on political parties (PML-N, PPP) to amend Article 224 of the Constitution so that the commission is able to carry out delimitations at grass-roots level. This job (of legislation) is to be done by federal and provincial governments in five months.”
The Supreme Court in its decision had also asked the ECP to hold local government elections in the country by November 15 this year. However, the election authorities fear that LB polls cannot be held even if the provinces and the federal government timely enact the new law as directed by the apex court.
Mr Afgan said that in case the new law was enacted by July or August, the ECP would require at least eight to 10 months because the commission will modify the existing voters lists in accordance with the latest delimitations for which a door-to-door campaign was needed.
“I don’t think 2014 will see LB polls in a country where political parties are given five months for a piece of legislation that can otherwise be done overnight. The conduct of election is the sole duty of ECP that has been given just 45 days to complete the exercise,” remarked former ECP Secretary Kanwar Dilshad.
Chief of the Awami Muslim League (AML) and MNA Sheikh Rashid observed that the government was not sincere in empowering people at grass-roots level. “A single amendment in the constitution needs only an hour for federal and provincial governments. So far there is no development in the National Assembly to help the ECP so that it could start delimitations,” he added.
Federal Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Sheikh Aftab said that the provincial law departments would first request his office through a written statement for enactment of any law, adding that his office had so far not received any intimation from the provinces in this regard. “So far I have not read Supreme Court’s decision that wants federal and provincial governments to make new legislation for empowering ECP to carry out delimitation. We will abide by the directions of the apex court,” the minister added.
PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar said the Sindh Assembly would soon come up with legislation in order to empower the ECP to carry out delimitations in the province. “Let me ask Sindh Information Minister Sharjil Memon about the progress made on the issue,” Mr Baber said in reply to a further question.