Islamabad - Uncertainty over holding of local bodies elections in Islamabad still persists, as a key panel of Senate here on Thursday pended the ICT Local Government Bill, 2015 and asked the government to file a review petition against a judgement of the Supreme Court that asks to hold local bodies polls in the capital on the unapproved draft of this bill.

Pakistan Peoples ‘Party (PPP) has already raised this issue in the Senate saying that holding of elections in Islamabad on the basis of a draft bill had no legality, as Parliament has not passed the ICT Local Government Bill, 2015 yet.

Senate Standing Committee on Interior that met under the chair of Senator Rehman Malik Thursday asked the government to file a review petition against the judgment.

It also decided that representatives of the law ministry and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) would be called in the next committee meeting to have their point of view on the situation prevailing over the bill.

The apex court in its judgement dated March 6, 2015 directed that local government polls in Islamabad would be held on July 25, 2015 depending on draft of the proposed bill, in case the government fails to adopt required legislation by that time. The government claims that there was no illegality to hold local body polls without proper legislation as this is being done in the light of the Supreme Court’s judgement.

The chairman committee said that the proposed ICT Local Government Bill, 2015 was under consideration of Parliament and local government polls could only be held on the basis of approved legislation. He further said that SC had no jurisdiction to give verdict against law and if it was accepted then it would set a bad precedent in future.

State Minister on Interior Balighur Rehman viewed that that direction of the committee would be seen as a delaying tactic to hold local government polls. The National Assembly has already passed this bill and it has been lying pending with the Upper House for some time as it wants to make some amendments in it including to hold local government polls in ICT on party basis.

Senator Rehman Malik remarked that the committee did not want to create hurdles in devolution of powers to elected representatives. “But our observation is based on understanding that this judgment is against the spirit of law and required an immediate review,” he added. The committee also decided to ask the ministry of law in black and white initiate the review process.

The remarks of the committee came after a subcommittee headed by Senator Barrister Mohammad Ali Saif also presented its report on the proposed bill.

Barrister Saif called the judgement of Supreme Court as unwise judgment and added that both Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and the federal government would be in trouble due to that “unwise” judgment. “How we can go for an election in the absence of mandatory legislation,” he questioned.

The committee observed that if bill was adopted in its current form, it would cause overlapping of powers between different institutions of ICT as well as other government departments including CDA, ICT Administration and ICT Police. The meeting termed it the major loophole in the bill.

The CDA representative, Deputy Director General (Land) Hamza Shafqat while giving presentation to the committee on the bill said that a number of municipal functions of CDA including town planning, building control and different contracts, etc being exercised under section 15-A of the CDA Ordinance 1960 would be devolved to local governments under this proposed bill.

He objected to the transfer of powers of levying and collection of taxes to the Municipal Corporation of Islamabad and Union Councils and said that this would create problems. He said that water management would also be transferred to the local government but it would be an uphill task for the local government to manage it.

“Powers like development of residential sectors and housing schemes would rest with the CDA and local government will have to require mandatory permission from the CDA in case it intends to execute any power that falls in the CDA’s mandate,” he said.