ISLAMABAD - The federation on Monday assured the Supreme Court that local government elections in cantonment boards of the country will be held in the last week of November this year.

Attorney General Munir A Malik, on behalf of Defence Secretary, submitted an application saying the government had undertaken on July 2, 2013 that LG polls in cantonment areas would be held by September 15. A similar commitment was also made in the beginning of this year that the polls in cantonment areas will be held in May 2013, but due to reasons these could not be held as per promises. Requesting the court to grant more time, Malik said hopefully the LG polls in cantonment boards will be held in the last week of November.

A two-judge bench comprising Justice Jawwad S Khawaja and Justice Azmat Saeed Sheikh, hearing Raja Rab Nawaz’s petition for holding elections in cantonment boards, asked the attorney general: “We are recording your statement and the request. The same commitments were made thrice in the past which were not fulfilled.”

The bench directed the advocate generals of Balochistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to state categorically when the LG polls will be held in both provinces. The bench asked Sindh AG to stick to September 18 statement, which says LG polls in Sindh will be held on 27th November. Additional Advocate General Punjab submitted that Punjab government wanted the ECP to hold LG polls in the province on December 14 this year.

Justice Azmat said the impression that the apex court was a party to the case was wrong, and added: “We want that whatever is written in the constitution should be implemented. If it does not happen we will take action.” “

“It seems that we are dragging an obstinate horse or mule to implement the constitution,” remarked Justice Khawaja.

The AG informed the bench that after the July 2 order of the apex court a meeting to discuss Cantonment Board Local Government Rules 2012 was held between officials of defence ministry and Election Commission of Pakistan.

Explaining reasons for not fulfilling the commitment, the AG apprised that the federal government was contemplating some amendments in Cantonment Ordinance 2002. He said under Local Government Act 1924 the delimitation was required for wards, while under Ordinance 2002 the delimitation is required for local councils.

“The government wants to incorporate sections of disqualification in the draft of Cantonment (Amendment) Ordinance 2013,” the attorney general said. He said under the old ordinance there were 50 per cent seats for elected members and 50 per cent for nominated members by the president of the board.

Malik said: “The prime minister believes that 50 per cent nominations of the board members will render the election process meaningless, therefore, the prime minister had constituted a 12-members committee, under the chair of Zahid Hamid, to examine the proposed amendments in the Cantonment Ordinance 2002 with a view to ensure that public representation in local government is both inclusive and meaningful.”

The AG said that there was no lack of due diligence and every effort was being made to comply with the apex court order. “We (Ministry) and the ECP are ready to hold elections but waiting for the new amendments to be incorporated.”

Justice Khawaja said LG elections in cantonment areas were related to governance and it was not a military or defence issue.

Abdul Rahman, Additional DG (Legal) ECP, informed the court that they had started the paper work and after the approval of new law they would need 60 days to hold elections.

About local government elections in Islamabad capital territory (ICT), he said the law for holding elections in ICT could be passed by issuing an ordinance and hopefully by the end of the current month it would be done. He said under Local Government Ordinance 1979 the LG polls in Islamabad could be held only in rural areas, but now the government wanted to extend it to the urban areas of Islamabad as well.

Advocate General Punjab Mustafa Ramady told the court that Punjab government had confirmed to the ECP that provincial government would hold LB polls on December 14. To which the bench asked him to file written statement at next hearing.

Additional Advocate General Sindh in his reply submitted that pursuing the court orders the provincial government was ready to hold LB polls in the province but it was conditional to law and order situation in the province.

The bench reprimanded him and said there should not be ifs and buts and recalled that during the hearing on the matter in Karachi on September 18, a statement was recorded on behalf of the provincial government that the LB polls would be held on November 27. The hearing was adjourned till today (September 24).

Agencies add: Balochistan government submitted that it could not give a date for holding local bodies (LB) polls in the province because cabinet was yet to be completed.

The apex court directed KP and Balochistan provinces to submit their replies regarding holding of LB elections till September 24.

The apex court also gave time to the federation for holding the Cantonment Board elections by the end of November at the request of Attorney General for Pakistan.

The bench rejected the report submitted by the additional advocate general Sindh by directing him to submit a clear statement for holding LB elections by Tuesday (today).

Additional advocate general KPK informed the bench that the provincial government would be in a position to hold elections by end of November and the provincial government had its own resolves for LB elections.

Later, the bench directed the KPK and Balochistan governments to file clear replies by September 24 and adjourned hearing.