IHC to hear govt, PTI, ECP pleas on capital local body polls next week

IHC to hear govt, PTI, ECP pleas on capital local body polls next week



A woman casts her vote at a polling station during by-elections in Karachi on October 16, 2022. — PPI
A woman casts her vote at a polling station during by-elections in Karachi on October 16, 2022. — PPI
  • Benches for all pleas to be formed on January 2, 2023.
  • PTI seeks contempt of court charges against govt. ECP.
  • Local body polls were scheduled to take place today.

ISLAMABAD: The pleas of the federal government and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) against the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) Friday order and the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) petition seeking contempt of court proceedings against the centre and ECP are expected to be heard next week.

The cases were not marked by the court’s staff, and benches for hearing the pleas will be formed next year — on January 2, 2023. As a result, the petitions will not be taken up for hearing today.

The government and the commission had filed their pleas today morning and requested an emergency order, while the PTI had moved the IHC in the afternoon — but none of them was scheduled.

The IHC, while accepting the petitions of PTI and Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) for nullification of ECP’s decision of LG polls’ deferral, Friday directed the electoral body to hold the elections as per the schedule today (Saturday).

The ECP had on December 27 cancelled the December 31 schedule to hold the local government elections in the federal capital after a change in the union councils of the capital territory.

However, the high court, in its one-page short order, asked the federal government to ensure that “it assists the election commission in holding the local government polls”.

“The Ministry of Interior’s December 19 notification has been declared null and void and so is the December 27 notification of the election commission,” the order added.

The pleas

The ECP and federal government challenged the orders of the high court to hold local government elections in the federal capital today (December 31).

The electoral body had requested an immediate hearing on an intra-court appeal filed in the high court. However, the IHC registrar’s office raised an objection over the appeal, saying that it lacks the required documents.

Later, the objections were removed by the ECP’s legal team.

Meanwhile, the federal government also challenged the IHC’s order via a separate intra-court appeal.

Later in the day, PTI lawmaker Ali Nawaz Awan filed a petition in the IHC to hold the government responsible for contempt of court for “deliberately disobeying the unequivocal and unambiguous directions” of the court.

Awan — making the federal government, the election commission, and the chief election commissioner a party in the petition — urged the court to convict and sentence those responsible in an “exemplary manner, in the interest of justice to maintain the sanctity of the judgments and orders” of the court.

“….the respondents may kindly be convicted and sentenced in an exemplary manner, in the interest of justice to maintain the sanctity of the Judgments and orders of the honourable courts.”

Govt expresses inability to hold LG polls

Minutes after the court’s directives to conduct the LG polls, Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah said the federal government is not in a position to hold local government elections in Islamabad.

“We respect the court [Islamabad High Court], but holding the elections is not possible as the arrangements cannot be made in such a short period,” the federal minister told Geo News.

He added that as many as 1,000 polling stations needed security, election material is still not deployed at the stations and the polling staff will also be needed. “This isn’t possible.”

The minister also added that since the “ground realities” do not permit the government to ensure the polls take place, the centre was going to file an intra-court appeal against the order.

“The order was issued in the evening after office hours. How is it possible to make the arrangements for the [elections]? What can be a more strong reason than this,” Sanaullah said when asked about what his hopes were about the petition’s acceptance.

The minister said he was not surprised by the order, but noted that directions should be “implementable” and the latest IHC order will ensure “that the elections do not take place”.

Sanaullah said a new schedule should be issued for the polls, and there is no other way to hold the elections as he ruled out assisting the election commission.

“It isn’t possible [to assist] the commission. We cannot provide security in such a short time period for 1,000 polling stations. Islamabad Police are not enough as will need to deploy Rangers and FC will have to be called in,” he added.

Sanaullah said he foresees the polls taking place in the next three to four months as the new delimitation will take time.

Earlier today, the PTI claimed on Twitter that voters are waiting outside polling stations, but that the ECP staff is missing despite the court’s orders to hold elections.

The party’s chairman Imran Khan said that the commission has “shown it is B-team of imported government and its backers” by not implementing IHC’s orders.

“PDM, fearful of the people, is running away from all elections. Right to vote is a fundamental democratic norm & PTI stands committed to it,” he wrote on his official Twitter account.

While PTI Senior Vice-President Fawad Chaudhry tweeted about taking action against the ECP.

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