ISLAMABAD - Tables have been turned on the Election Commission of Pakistan as the provinces are moving fast to hold local government elections in the near future, leaving on the poll authority to carve out a specified timeline in this regard in an important meeting scheduled today (Tuesday).
With two provinces announcing their readiness to go for the LG polls, pressure has been mounted on the ECP to announce a schedule for holding the LG polls in today's meeting with the federal and provincial governments.
The scenario, keeping in view the recent past whereby the commission kept on passing the buck on provinces for delaying tactics in holding the LG polls, has drastically changed against the poll authority. The Punjab and Sindh governments officially informed the Supreme Court on Monday that they had completed the constituencies' delimitation for LG polls and it was now up to the ECP to make arrangements in this connection.
The commission seems to be under pressure this time to announce the LG elections schedule. Announcement of the date for local bodies elections was part of the previous15-point agenda meeting chaired by Acting Chief Election Commissioner Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani but there was no progress on this count, with the ECP having clearly hinted that LG polls were not possible this year (in October 3 meeting).
"It is just a matter of days that we'll inform the ECP to go ahead with the LG elections in KP," Provincial LG Minister Inayatullah Khan told The Nation. "The bill is in the assembly for debate. Once this is done, the assembly would approve it with a visible majority. This would follow the process of the constituencies’ delimitation," he added. The entire process, the minister said, would be completed by November's second week.
A well-placed official at the ECP's Legal Wing said on condition of anonymity that the commission had serious reservations on the LG system introduced by the Punjab government. "Envisaging non-party based polls, Punjab's LG system is marked with certain legal complications that might invite litigation," the official believed.
While the Punjab government remains under criticism for introducing a controversial local bodies set-up, the LG systems of the other three provinces that provided for party-based LG elections, with the exception of non-party based polls at union council-level in KP, are widely acceptable to the political parties and general public.
Meanwhile, the ECP is to suspend the parliamentary memberships of 40 lawmakers who have not submitted their statements of assets and liabilities.
Under the Representation of the People Act (RoPA) 1976, the lawmakers were required to submit their financial statements by September 30. This deadline was revised till October 15 and again extended until October 21. By Monday evening, 10 KPK MPAs, 9 Sindh MPAs, 8 Punjab MPAs, an MPA from Balochistan, nine MNAs and three senators did not submit their assets and liabilities statements with the ECP.
The prominent among them are Leader of Opposition in Punjab Assembly Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed and Senators Rehman Malik, Mustafa Kamal and Faisal Raza Abidi.
This is the third time the ECP is to suspend Rehman Malik's senatorial membership due to the non-submission of his wealth details. He was earlier suspended in 2012 and 2011. Last year, the ECP had suspended the memberships of 154 lawmakers, later reinstated on filing the required financial statements. In 2011, a record number of 231 legislators got suspended till the submission of the wealth details.
The suspension implies that legislators cannot become part of or attend any kind of official proceedings taking place in the Parliament or provincial assemblies, as members.