LAHORE - The Punjab government yesterday told the Lahore High Court that the Election Commission of Pakistan had suspended the notification regarding elections on reserved seats.

The government said all the petitions filed against elections on reserved seats had become infructuous after the decision of the Election Commission of Pakistan, so these petitions should be dismissed. On it, Justice Shahid Waheed of the LHC turned down petitions of the opposition parties filed against the schedule of the elections. The judge, however, deferred hearing on the petitions challenging method of elections on the reserved seats until March 3.

Polling for the seats reserved in district councils, municipal corporations and the Lahore Metropolitan Corporation was due on February 8, municipal committees on February 11 and at union council level on February 14.

The ECP data shows there are 18,567 seats reserved across the Punjab, including 9,286 for women, 4,435 for workers/peasants, 4,245 for youth, 427 for technocrats and 4,189 for non-Muslims. There are 492 seats reserved for women at district council level, 107 at metropolitan/municipal corporation level, 657 in municipal committees and 8,030 at union council level.

The local governments have 164 worker/peasant members at district council level across the Punjab. There are 41 workers/peasant seats in metropolitan/municipal corporations, 215 in municipal committees and 4,015 in union councils. In addition, there are 35 seats reserved for the youth at district council level, 13 in metropolitan/municipal corporations, 182 in municipal committees and 4,015 in union councils.

PPP, PTI, PML-Q and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT) had filed petitions and challenged the Local Government (Amendment) Ordinance, 2016.

They pointed out that the amended ordinance had changed the process of election of chairmen and mayors. They said Article 226 of the Constitution postulated the secret process of elections devoid of undue influence. The parties argued that the secret ballot was a voting method to prevent attempts to influence the voters by intimidation. They said the secret ballot protected political privacy and curbed corruption to strength democratic process.

They stated that giving retrospective effect to the amendments after the announcement of the schedule of election was a sheer mala fide of the government. They further said it was the constitutional mandate of the ECP to hold fair and transparent elections to the local governments in terms of articles 140-A and 218(3) and 219(d) of the Constitution.

The opposition parties asked the court to declare the impugned amendments null and void and restrain ECP from conducting the forthcoming elections for the reserved seats as well as those for mayors, deputy mayors, chairmen and vice chairmen of the district councils under the impugned ordinance.

LHC STAYS IUB ORDERS CANCELLING DEGREE The LHC yesterday stayed the notification issued by Islamia University of Bahawalpur, cancelling the graduation degree of PTI MNA Ghulam Sarwar Khan.

PTI leader Ghulam Sarwar Khan was elected as a member of the National Assembly from Taxila.

Khan had filed the petition, saying the university had suspended his diploma in engineering on the basis of which the university had also suspended his graduation degree. He said the decision of the university was illegal as he was not issued any notice. The petitioner said the LHC had already declared his degree correct. He prayed to the court to set aside the notification of the university.

REPLY SOUGHT ON PACKAGE FOR FARMERS: The LHC yesterday sought reply from the federal government in a petition filed against Prime Minister’s Package for Farmers.

Sardar Shaban, a local farmer, filed the petition through his counsel and pointed out that the package announced by the prime minister for farmers was discriminatory and bribery for the allies of PML-N.

He alleged the government was not facilitating all the farmers of the province and only the farmers affiliated with PML-N were given the benefit of this package. He requested the court to declare the package null and void. The hearing adjourned for two weeks.