ISLAMABAD - Promulgation of a presidential ordinance, as an alternate to the parliamentary legislation, for the time being, can pave way for the immediate conduct of the local government elections in the cantonment localities while the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has not moved an inch to share its input with the quarters concerned in this regard.

With the Supreme Court-given deadline on the conduct of LG polls in the cantonment boards (CBs) expiring on September 15, the related parliamentary legislation for amendments in the Cantonment Act 1924 does not seem possible given that National Assembly’s session is expected to be called in some time after September 15. The lawmaking on urgent matters, when parliament is not in session, is done through presidential ordinance, which, in order to become a law, requires the Parliament’s nod within 120 days from its promulgation or lapses otherwise.

Whether parliamentary legislation is done or presidential ordinance promulgated for holding the LG elections in cantonments, in both the cases the MoD has to send a related summary carrying its recommendations and relevant perspective to the ministries concerned, which has reportedly not been done.

In the story titled “LG polls in CBs unlikely by September 15” printed this July 16, The Nation had first reported, quoting credible sources, that the LG polls in the CBs were unlikely by September 15 on account of the MoD’s apparent reluctance to play its part for having certain legal hitches in the Cantonment Act removed through parliamentary legislation.

It was also reported in the same story that the LG polls in the CBs could take time well beyond the prescribed date.

In case of parliamentary legislation, the MoD has to move a related summary to the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs on proposed amendments in the Cantonment Act 1924, which is to be put up before the Parliament in the form of tabling a bill. The bill is to be presented for debate separately in National Assembly and Senate and becomes a law if passed from both the houses by simple majority.

In case of presidential ordinance, the MoD has to send the summary on proposed recommendations to the Ministry of Law and Justice, which is to put it up in the form of a bill before the president for his approval only when the Parliament is not in session. If approved, the bill or ordinance has to be passed by the Parliament within 120 days from its promulgation, following which, it becomes an act.

The constitution’s Article 89 provides that the president may, except when the Senate or National Assembly is in session, if satisfied that circumstances exist, which render it necessary to take immediate action, make and promulgate an ordinance.

This article also provides that an ordinance promulgated shall have the same force and effect as an act of Parliament but every such ordinance shall be laid before the National Assembly and shall stand repealed at the expiration of 120 days from its promulgation or, if before the expiration of that period -a resolution disapproving it is passed by the assembly.

Provided that the National Assembly may by a resolution extend the ordinance for a further period of 120 days (for one time) and it shall stand repealed at the expiration of the extended period.

On different occasions, The Nation tried to contact MoD Spokesman Rear Admiral Mukhtar Jadoon at his official number 051 9271119 for the ministry’s version on the LG elections in CBs but he remained unavailable to comment.

Former Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) Kanwar Dilshad believes, the MoD would have to face the music at the hands of SC for the apparent negligence shown in holding the LG elections in the cantonments by September 15. “The secretary defence should not have committed before the apex court to hold the polls by the prescribed date, if the ministry was not to do its proper homework resulting in its failure in meeting the deadline. This could simply attract the contempt of court proceedings,” he referred to the written statement of Secretary Defence Asif Yasin Malik submitted before the SC this July wherein he had reiterated to have the LG polls held in all the 53 CBs by September 15.

Kanwar Dilshad said, the ECP, in exercise of Section 107 of the Representation of the People Act (RoPA) 1976, can amend rules but an act cannot be amended exercising this section. Section 107 provides that the commission may, with the approval of president, make rules for carrying out the purposes of this act.  

With no legislation done on amending the Cantonment Act 1924, the MoD has shared the data of only 43 CBs with the ECP whereas the commission has not been provided with any record of the 10 CBs.