ISLAMABAD: On Saturday, the Secretary of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) said that the local government (LG) election is much bigger than the national and provincial assembly elections, and would cost the national exchequer Rs18 billion in total.
During a briefing on the LG polls, he informed that Punjab has a total of 25,000 constituencies for local bodies, whereas Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s constituencies number around 4,000. Such numbers would require the electoral body to print 200 million ballots for Punjab and 100 million for KP. The number of ballot papers needed will be four times more than the general election.
Given the financial cost and the logistics of the local elections, it could take three months to procure election materials under the Papers Rules.
April 8 would mark the first phase of the polls, kicking off the massive electoral polls in KP, while the second phase would be held on May 29. On the other hand, Punjab will see three phases for the LG polls, June 20, July 16, and August 8.
The KP provincial government aims to amend the local bodies law and has expressed a desire to postpone the polls. The KP law minister said that the provincial cabinet had proposed local body elections on September 15, however, given the rising number of coronavirus cases in KP, it is not appropriate to hold the poll.
Punjab law minister said that the Punjab government is ready to hold LG polls in September. However, the government wants to change the local body law, he added. Expressing the same sentiment, the Punjab chief secretary said local body elections should not be held before August to complete administrative matters.
But the ECP secretary said no amendment should be made in the Local Government Act which would affect the election programme of the commission.
The Military Land Director-General (the relevant authority for Cantonment LG polls) suggested that the elections in cantonment boards be held in a single phase.
However, the 2017 census of Pakistan has not been made public due to reservations of Sindh over miscalculation of population. Given this hurdle, the local bodies election will either need the new data or will have to rely on the previous census of 1998 to make constituencies. Sindh government spokesperson Murtaza Wahab said that local body elections could not be held on the basis of the 1998 census.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court judge Justice Qazi Faez Isa remarked that local body elections were a constitutional requirement.
He further added that the Punjab government had violated the constitution by dissolving the local government bodies. When it comes to holding local body polls, the provinces start counting off their problems instead of fulfilling their constitutional duty, he added.
Punjab had killed democracy by dissolving the local government before the expiry of its term, the Justice Isa criticised, asking why this had been done.
The additional advocate-general Punjab said a new law had been made for local governments in the province. When the bench asked Attorney General of Pakistan (AGP) Khalid Jawed Khan about the dissolution of any government before the expiry date, he admitted that no elected government should be packed unconstitutionally.
The remarks came while the Supreme Court judge heard a case, along with Justice Maqbool Baqar, regarding holding local government elections.
“The election commission held two sessions over the instructions of the supreme court to consider over the local government elections in the provinces, Islamabad and the cantonment boards,” the ECP stated in its reply. The commission also submitted minutes of the meetings.
“The matter of local council elections in Sindh and Balochistan have been postponed till February 11 meeting,” the election commission said.
Justice Isa also probed into the progress over the census result in reply to the AGP informing the court that the result of the 2017 census was not released as of yet. The AGP told the court that the Sindh government and others had objections to the census, so the federal government had formed a committee to review the matter. The census would be conducted again on 5% of the population blocks in Sindh.