LG polls still have a long way to complete

ISLAMABAD - More than 100 days back when voters cast ballots for electing representatives on grassroots level, the Local Government (LG) polls kicked off in Punjab and Sindh have not been completed so far as the local bodies system still faces some hurdles.
With the first phase of polls conducted on October 31 last year, the LG elections aimed at empowering people at grassroots level has entered another year (2016) but the polls have not yet finished let alone functioning of the municipal councils. Though the polls have been conducted in phases in
provinces of Punjab and Sindh, the seats required for formation of local councils or district nazim and tehsil nazim, still need voting as seats reserved for women, peasants and minorities are yet to be contested.
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had held first phase of the exercise in October last year while the last phase of the polls was held on December 5 last year with a hope that the new elected bodies will start functioning from January 2016.
However, there is still a long way to finish the polls and even more far way to enable the elected representatives to start functioning and deliver to the masses.
Officials in ECP acknowledged the polls should have been held on a single day instead of holding the exercise in four phases so that the LG system had started functioning timely and properly.
One official said the gap in the phase-wise elections was huge, arguing the ECP should have conducted the second phase of polls after four or five days when the first phase of the polls was conducted on October 31.
“Instead we held the polls on November 19 and the third phase on December 5. The polls could not finish because we provided ample time to litigants to sue us and the provinces in a court of law. In some cases, provinces challenged ECP and that delayed the election,” a senior ECP official told The Nation requesting not to be named. Sindh where direct elections for various slots have been completed on December 5 last year, polls for 9,500 reserved seats for women, peasants and minorities are scheduled to be held on February 20 though the polls were supposed to be concluded on February 14. Punjab, the biggest province in country is still not clear over holding the last phase of the LG polls as it is confused whether to hold the polls through proportional representation or show of hands.
With political parties intending maximum share in the number of seats, the ruling PML-N in Punjab has informed the ECP that it was pondering over the mode of election to reserved seats without using ballot papers method. ECP officials said that this was a rare moment that election to the seats reserved for women are held in Sindh through show of hands, adding that Punjab will likely opt for the same mode to complete the LG polls.
Once the reserved seats are filled, the ECP has to nominate and appoint Returning Officers (ROs) for administrating oaths to the district nazim, his deputy and town nazim and his deputy respectively. “I am not sure about the date that will be fixed for oath-taking ceremony of elected district nazims and town nazims. For this, the completion of LG polls is a must and so far the polls have not come to an end,” another official in ECP said.
A spokesman for the ECP told The Nation that petitions filed in the midst of polls also caused delay in completion of the polls, adding that provinces too requested for delay in some phases of the polls. Once the elected members are administered oath, the role of ECP will cease to exist and the provinces will decide how the LG system should operate. “The provinces may give power and limit the powers of elected representatives. ECP has no role to meddle,” the official said.
Though holding LG polls is constitutional obligation, the tenure of the last LG system was completed in 2009 and according to ECP, the polls should have been held in 2010. “Credit goes to Supreme Court of Pakistan that warned provinces and the ECP to meet the constitutional obligation,” he said.


Rabbani’s warning about convening CCI worries govt


ISLAMABAD – Chairman Senate Raza Rabbani’s warning about convening Council of Common Interest (CCI) meeting creates a stir among government ranks, as the federal government has increased efforts to woo provinces on ‘same’ agenda of the meeting.
This government has been continuously violating the constitution by not convening the meeting of Council of Common Interests (CCI) for last one year without sharing any reason.
While, the recent statement of Chairman Senate has compelled incumbent government to increase its efforts to convince provinces on same agenda to be discussed in much-awaited meeting, sources in government shared with The Nation.
“Government concerned quarters on some special directions will again contact provinces to sort out matter pending only on agenda of meeting,” they said. This government had convened last CCI’s meeting on the start of 2015 and the meeting was not called.
Although Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has approved summary to convene CCI meeting but provinces are still not on same page about the agenda of meeting, expected for last one year.
Sources said the provinces have not been convinced to decide agenda of meeting. As, the matter regarding LNG deal and other have not been decided to include in the agenda or not. “Sindh and KP are putting pressure to place LNG deal on the agenda of the meeting,” they added.
PML-N government has to constitutionally convene ten meetings during half of its tenure. But, this government arranged only five meetings, which held on July 23, 2013, July 31, 2013, February 10, 2014, May 29, 2014, and March 2015.
The constitution (Under sub-clause 3 of Article 153) says, “the government is bound to call the council’s meeting at least once in three months.” This provision was inserted in the Constitution through the 18th Amendment. A number of attempts were made to contact IPC Minister Riaz Pirzada but he was not available. Senate Chairman Raba Rabbani in its warning asked government that it could create chaotic effect on the politics. As the prime minister under Article 154 (3) of the Constitution is required to convene CCI once in every 90 days. The forum provides federation and the provinces platform for discussing and resolving issues of mutual concern.
Senate Chairman made these remarks in a ruling on a motion moved by Senator Sassui Palejo on December 21, 2015 seeking to discuss the domain and jurisdiction of the CCI and the situation arising out of non-convening of the council.
He also gave 15 days to the government to follow the constitutional provisions relating to CCI, as the government is violating the constitution obligation failed to summon the meeting of the council in the last 331 days. The ruling said that neither the rules of the council provide for the prime minister to take a decision and subsequently refer it the council for approval nor the federal cabinet constituted under Article 91 of the constitution can arrogate to itself the powers conferred on the CCI through Article 154 and 155 of the Constitution.

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