ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court on Tuesday issued notice to Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) seeking its opinion whether local government elections in the Cantonment Board areas is possible, as the general elections will be held next year. CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry heading a three-member bench comprising Justice Gulzar Ahmed and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed was hearing the petition regarding elections in Cantonment Board areas, filed by Raja Rab Nawaz.

The petitioner has demanded that election should be held in the cantonment areas of Quetta, in accordance with Local Government Act 1924. The bench was informed that the Act was replaced with the Local Government Ordinance, 2001, but it could not be implemented in the Cantonment Board areas.

The chief justice inquired why in 14 years no elections were held in the cantonment board areas. This is a constitutional obligation, which the defence ministry has not fulfilled.

The court also directed Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Dil Muhammad Alizai and Director (Legal) Ministry of Defence Commander Shahbaz Hussain to come prepared with relevant records over holding elections in cantonment boards and apprise of the court with the stance of ministry concerned.

Commander Shahbaz informed the bench that they had moved a summary to the prime minister, and after his approval they would forward it to the Election Commission of Pakistan for holding elections in the cantonments. He further apprised that they were granted extension by the competent authority till May 5, 2013 regarding continuation of the current set up. Justice Azmat said: “The civilians should be governed by civilian representatives.” He inquired what is the justification of postponement of the LG elections in the cantonment boards. He stated that the British had established the CBs in 1924 and it was mentioned in the Act that there would be civilian representatives, but it has not been happening in the country since 1999. The chief justice said: “Civilian and military both have their own jurisdiction and their separate defined role.” He stated that the taxpayer money is also involved in the matter; as civilians should be given the right to choose their representatives. The Chief Justice asked the representatives of defence ministry to withdraw the letter they had written for postponement of elections. The Chief Justice also stated: “We would look into the matter as to why the LG elections were not held in the CBs since 1999.”

Upon this, Commander Shahbaz Hussain contended that ministry has written to the Prime Minister just seeking the permission for holding the elections. He stated that they will hold the elections soon after the approval from the competent authorities, adding the polls had been postponed till May 2013 with the approval of Prime Minister. Justice Azmat stated: “You have to hold the elections if there is no any legal hurdle in this regard. If the elections are postponed then there should be any valid legal ground.”

The bench directed deputy attorney general Dil Muhammad Alizai to come prepared and apprise it with definite stance of the government in the next hearing. The hearing was adjourned for two weeks.