KARACHI -AGENCIES - The holding of local government elections on January 18 became doubtful on Monday as the Sindh High Court declared the amendments made to the Sindh Local Government Act-2013 (SLGA-2013) unconstitutional and illegal, and the provincial government said now adherence to the earlier schedule was not possible as the verdict would be challenged.

A division bench comprising Justice Sajjad Ali Shah and Justice Farooq Ali Shah gave its verdict through a short order, which also urged the government not to delay the polls on this ground.

Ten political parties including Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz and Pakistan Muslim League-Functional had filed petitions challenging the LG delimitations and amendments in SLGA-2013, praying that they be declared void, being in conflict with Article 104-A of the Constitution.

The court ruled that Sindh Local Government (third amendment) Ordinance was passed by the Sindh Assembly unlawfully and all amendments in the ordinance are illegal.

In its decision, the court also directed the Sindh government’s relevant authorities to approach the court before future amendments in the law.

The MQM, the PML-N and the PML-F want LB on schedule. The MQM urged the Sindh government to implement the Sindh High Court decision on the local government law and ensure holding of elections on the scheduled date of Jan 18.

Addressing a news conference, MQM’s Faisal Sabzwari said his party was ready to take part in elections, adding that it would continue to put pressure on the provincial government for implementation of the SHC orders. “Amendments to the Sindh Local Government Ordinance were based on ill will, we are thankful to the court for its ruling,” he said.

“In case the government is not in a position to adhere to this date, it should clearly tell on which date it is willing to hold elections. The candidates should be given reasonable time to run their elections campaign,” he said.

MQM Chief Altaf Hussain, through a statement, thanked the SHC chief justice and congratulated the people over this verdict.

MQM leader Farogh Nasim said Sections 3, 4, 8, 13 as well as subsections 12 and 14 which had been added to section 18 of the bill were the cause for disparity in the delimitation process. Therefore the court had declared these amendments unconstitutional, he added.

As a result of the impugned delimitation, some units comprised 10,000 people while others had 50,000, Naseem said. The amendments that were against the fundamental right of ‘one man-one vote’ have been declared unconstitutional, he added.

PML-N leader Irfanullah Marwat said his party was waiting for the next step of the Sindh government regarding polls. He said the PML-N had completed its homework but elections in near future are not likely in current circumstance. PML-F leader Saddaruddin Shah Rashdi said that the LG polls should be held on schedule.

The Sindh government appears to be in a confusion regarding holding of the elections. On the one hand, Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah said that they were ready to hold polls on January 18 but his ministers were saying something else.

Minister for Information Sharjeel Inam Memon said that after the SHC decision, holding of the LG polls was not possible on January 18. Talking to media, he rejecting 2001 delimitation and said Musharraf carried out delimitation to ‘bribe’ his political partners.

The minister said the matter would now be taken to the Supreme Court after necessary consultations. He further said that the candidates for the LG polls have submitted their nomination papers as per the new delimitation. After SHC decision, nominations have become null and void while holding of the LG polls were not possible in the province.

In response to a question, he said that his party demanded new delimitations in the province. The Election Commission of Pakistan should announce a new schedule regarding the LG polls in Sindh. The Sindh government, he said, would not hold the LG polls on the old delimitation. No one else except Parliament has the rights to formulate laws, he added.

Separately, Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah said the provincial government would challenge the Sindh High Court verdict. Talking to media persons in Sukkur, Qaim said that the government would consult the lawyers after detailed verdict is given, and the Supreme Court would be moved if needed. In reply to a question, the CM said that in the wake of the SHC decision, local government elections would not be postponed but the date could be extended.