LAHORE -  The Punjab government on Thursday assured the Lahore High Court that local bodies’ elections would be held till December 14.

After this assurance, LHC Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial disposed of the petitions against the inordinate delay of many years in holding LB elections in the province.

Earlier, a provincial law officer appeared before the court and submitted a written reply on behalf of the government. He told the court the Punjab government was ready to hold the LB elections till December 14 and a report in this regard had also been submitted in the Supreme Court.

Local Council Association president Asghar Gilani had moved a petition stating that as per a notification issued by the Punjab government local bodies’ election should be held till July 11, but no arrangements have been made to this effect so far. He added the provincial government was violating the constitution by not holding the local elections. He prayed the court to direct the Punjab government to hold local bodies’ election.

On the other hand, a LHC division bench also sought reply from the Election Commission of Pakistan on the petitions moved by the PPP, PTI and others challenging the Punjab Local Government Law 2013 and by-polls on the non-party basis.

The bench headed by LHC Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial observed that it was privilege of political parties to be the part of the local bodies’ elections.

As hearing resumed on the petitions, PPP secretary general Advocate Latif Khosa argued that local bodies’ elections on the non-party basis would promote horse-trading. Local bodies system would be ineffective if powers would not be given to local governments, he added.

He maintained the society could not develop if powers would not be transferred to masses. The 18th Amendment in the Constitution was also made for these reasons. He pointed out that the PMLN had done legislation for its personal benefits and elimination of participation of political parties in local bodies’ elections was a violation of the constitution. He further argued that no legislation could be done in violation of the Constitution.

In his arguments, Barrister Bakhtiar Kasuri, counsel of the PTI submitted that LB election on the non-party basis was a violation of the Article 140(a) of the Constitution. He alleged that the PML-N-led Punjab government was carrying out an illegal process of delimitation in the province. He pointed out the delimitation was the responsibility of the ECP, but DCOs was doing this which was pre-poll rigging. He also alleged that each MNA and MPA of the PML-N was doing delimitations to suit their own purposes.

The lawyer contended that it was a violation of fundamentals rights of the people and also the rules and regulations of the ECP. He requested the bench to make the PML-N government stop the delimitation process on arbitrary basis till the final decision of these petitions.

At this, the court said the ECP’s stance on this was necessary before passing any order. However, the bench observed that it was privilege of political parties to be part of the local bodies’ elections.

The bench will take up the matter on October 9. The court also issued notices to the ECP on two other petitions in favour of LB elections on non-party basis.

In the main petitions, the petitioners submitted that they intend to contest the forthcoming elections for local bodies as a party and to such local bodies which have authority devolved to it as enshrined in the Constitution of Pakistan and, therefore, challenges the provisions of Punjab Local Government Act 2013 contemplated in sections 1 (3), 13, 14, 15, 17, 92(3), 95 (2), 105 (4), 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 122, 123, 125 and 126, which are liable to be struck down being Ultra Vires of Article Articles 9, 10A, 17, 19A, 25, 32 and 140-A of the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan 1973. They pleaded that the assembly could not pass a law for holding non-party polls.

They stated that the national and provincial assemblies had been established as a result of party-based general election; therefore, conducting a non-party local government election in the province would be against the basic spirit of the Constitution.

They also prayed the court to strike down the Local Government Law 2013 to the extent of holding the polls on non-party basis being unconstitutional.