ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Monday once again turned down the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) plea for extending time for holding of local government (LG) elections in Sindh and Punjab.

The ECP through advocate Akram Sheikh filed a concise statement, seeking more time from the court to hold LG polls in the two provinces, expressing its inability to make necessary arrangements within the scheduled time.

The statement said Sindh government request for holding of polls on December 7, instead of November 27, will not help the holding of LG elections in that province as the procurement of paper and printing of ballot papers would not be possible even during the extended period.

And, in pursuance of the Lahore High Court order, the Punjab government now wanted elections on party basis after the ECP had issued election schedule for that province on non-party basis; therefore, the nomination forms which are scheduled to be received by the ROs from Nov 11 need to be amended accordingly.

Heading the three-member bench hearing the case, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry said that it was not the apex court but the provinces themselves which had given the dates and also sent the written requests to the Commission for holding of polls.

Sindh Advocate General Khalid Javed informed the court that the provincial government was determined to hold LG polls on Nov 27 but due to Ashura and other reasons, there were some difficulties to organise elections on the given date. He requested the court to extend this date until Dec 7.

Referring to the Sindh government’s application, the chief justice however said it was the responsibility of the commission to hold elections and it has the authority to decide about that request. However, he observed that the delay in the LG election caused a serious loss to the country, as there are no local governments in the country for many years.

“LG election is the requirement under article 140A of Constitution and you (the governments) violate it by not holding polls for years,” said the chief justice.

The ECP in its own petition augured that the delimitation of union councils/wards was still in progress and the provincial government is continuously making changes in the local areas. The ECP further stated that continuation of the delimitation exercise is also affecting the appointment of Returning Officers and charges are being proposed on daily basis. Besides, the ECP stated that since the Printing Corporation of Pakistan Press (PCPP) had shown its inability to print the requisite quantity of ballot papers within the timeframe, the ECP explored the possibility of hiring private printers.

Petitioner AK Doggar said Punjab found itself unable to make arrangements in this regard as the printing of ballot papers is yet under process which demands more time. He also argued that if the government is pressurised to hold elections, the transparency of the elections would really be doubtful, leading to further chaos. He requested to the court to delay the elections for a month till January 7.