Islamabad - The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has observed that the draft Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Local Government (LG) Bill, 2015 and draft ICT LG (Conduct of Elections) Rules, 2015 are replete with inconsistencies and anomalies — an observation that might cause further delay in the first-ever local government elections in the federal capital, highly reliable sources told The Nation on Sunday.

Scheduled by the ECP to be held on July 25, 2015, the LG elections have been hit by the controversies as they lack legal cover due to delay in the passage of the LG bill from the Upper House of the Parliament as well as it is yet unclear whether or not they would be held on party-basis. Some weeks back, the Senate Standing Committee on Interior had approved the draft bill — already passed by the National Assembly — to be passed by the Upper House but with some amendments, making it logical that the National Assembly will have to consider the bill again.

But the ECP observations on the draft bill at this stage might even add to the confusion as the government was planning to get it passed from the Senate at the earliest.

The ECP has asked the interior ministry to redraft Section 25 of the draft Act, as it relates to age limit of candidates for a seat in a union council including age limit for seat reserved for youth despite the fact that the candidates for youth seats have already submitted nomination papers irrespective of their age.

Once the age for youth applicants is determined, it may lead to open a new Pandora’s box.

According to a letter written by the ECP to the interior ministry last week, a copy of which is exclusively available with The Nation, several anomalies have been observed in the draft Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Local Government Bill, 2015 and draft ICT LG (Conduct of Elections) Rules, 2015.

The ECP asked the ministry to remove the anomalies at this stage when the law is in draft shape and yet to be enacted by the parliament.

Detailing the anomalies, the ECP noted, “It is evident in the Bill (Section 26K) that LG elections would be held on non-party basis in ICT but section 10 (2) of the Bill says that if there are more than one member in any category of seats in a local government, the election shall be held on the basis of proportional representation. This clause is completely contrary to section 15 ibid of the draft Bill, which provides that member of each union council shall be directly elected by the voters registered in the concerned union council.” The ECP observed that proportional representation system cannot be used where members are directly elected by the voters.

Similarly, the ECP observed, “Section 27 (4) provides that if a chairman of union council is elected as mayor or deputy mayor, he shall cease to be the chairman of the council and seat of the chairman of the union council shall stand vacated.

Since, chairman and vice chairman would be jointly elected, therefore, if the seat of the chairman, for example stands vacated in said circumstances, what may then be the status of vice chairman.” It said a procedure is required to be laid down in the bill or rules as to what will be the status of joint candidacy in case any of the elected chairman or vice chairman faces disqualification/removal by any court of law.

The letter further said that section 21 of the bill, inter-alia provides that the returning officer shall, before such time as the election commission may fix, propose to the election commission a list of polling stations for the constituency. Whereas, rule 9 of the draft rules provides that the returning officer shall, before such time the election commission may fix, submit to the district returning officer, a list of polling stations, he proposes to provide in a constituency for the purpose of election of members, chairman and vice chairman. The said rule further provides that the DRO shall publish list of polling stations in the official gazette. In this case, the ECP observed, the rules are not in conformity with the provisions of the bill.

The ECP further pointed out that section 25 of the draft bill, as far as it relates to age limit of candidates for a seat in a union council including age limit for seat reserved for youth needs to be redrafted.

Similarly section 14 of the bill, inter-alia, provides that election of members of all local councils, shall be held through secret ballot on the basis of adult franchise in such manner as may be prescribed but the ‘manner’ has not been provided in the rules, the ECP further observed.

The ECP has asked the interior ministry to consider the pointed out anomalies in the draft bill for smooth conduct of local government elections in Islamabad.