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ECP suggests key amendments to ensure timely LG polls

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  • ECP wants federal and provincial govts to pass legislation well before local govt’s term expires. 
  • Proposes binding respective governments to enact amendments to LG laws well in time.
  • One of proposed amendments envisages that “commission may, by order in official gazette”.

ISLAMABAD: The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has proposed key amendments to the legal framework to prevent any delay in the holding of timely grass-roots level polls, which will put an end to the governments’ hesitation in conducting local elections.

The 14-page order issued by the electoral body on the postponement of LG polls in the federal capital made a passing reference to these amendments. However, the proposed amendments were thrashed out by its law wing.

The election commission wants federal and provincial governments to pass legislation well before a local government’s term expires so that the subsequent electoral process is not hampered.

As per the draft proposal, an amendment has been proposed to Section 219 of the Elections Act, 2017, to bind the respective governments to enact amendments to the local government laws and administrative units well in time.

The proposed amendment to the section says, “The federal government, or as the case may be, the provincial government shall make necessary arrangements, including amendments to the existing local government laws and rules, and change or alteration in the administrative limits of districts, tehsils, and local areas, before the expiry of the term of local government.”

Likewise, proposed provisos read that the federal government, or as the case may be, the provincial government, shall not alter the administrative limits of districts, tehsils, and urban and rural local areas after the expiry of the term of the local government.

“Provided that, in case the existing local government system is required to be replaced completely with the new local government system or substantially altered during its currency by any government, then such enactment shall be made by an act of Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament) or the Provincial Assembly, as the case may be, at least one year before the expiry of the local government province, cantonment, Islamabad Capital Territory, Federally Administered Tribal Areas, or a part thereof.”

One of the proposed amendments envisages that “the commission may, by order in the official gazette, make provisions for the conduct of local government elections if no provision or insufficient provision has been made under this act or the rules.”

The commission justifies the proposed changes by explaining that Article 32 of the Constitution provides that the state shall encourage local government institutions to be composed of elected representatives of the areas concerned, and in such institutions, the special representation will be given to peasants, workers, and women. The draft also says Article 140-A (1) provides that each province shall by law establish a local government system and devolve political, administrative, and financial responsibility and authority to the elected representative of the local governments. The conduct of local government elections is addressed in Chapter XIII of the Elections Act of 2017.

Therefore, the election commission, under Article 140-A(2) read with Article 219(d) of the Constitution, is under obligation to hold local government elections. Article 218(3) of the Constitution casts a duty upon the commission to organise and conduct elections and to make such arrangements as are necessary to ensure that the election is conducted honestly, justly, fairly, and by the law and that corrupt practices are guarded against.

“The commission has always strived to hold timely local government elections in order to fulfil its constitutional obligation, but the federal and provincial governments repeal or amend local government laws even after the expiry of the term of the local government, causing an inordinate delay in the conduct of the election and the commission faces difficulty in fulfilling its constitutional duty.” “It is now established that local government is the third tier of the state, and delay in the election of local government offends Article 32, 140-A(1), and 219(d) of the Constitution and also hampers the devolution of powers at the grass-roots level,” the document says.

Similarly, the election commission has also proposed an amendment to Article 140-A of the Constitution, and it seeks to add sub-clause 3 to Article 140-A, providing the same changes as in Section 219 of the Elections Act, whereas Section 219 of the act in its present form reads: “The Commission shall conduct elections to the local governments under the applicable local government law and the rules framed thereunder, as may apply to a province, cantonments, Islamabad Capital Territory, or federally administered tribal areas.

“Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), the voting procedure for direct elections to the local governments in a province, cantonments, Islamabad Capital Territory, or federally administered tribal areas shall be the same as provided for an election to the assemblies under this act. “Subject to subsection (4), the Commission shall, in consultation with the federal or provincial government, announce the date or dates on which the elections to a local government shall be conducted in a province, cantonment, Islamabad Capital Territory, federally administered tribal areas, or a part thereof. “The Commission shall hold elections to the local governments within one hundred and twenty days of the expiry of the terms of the local governments of a province, cantonment, Islamabad Capital Territory, or federally administered tribal areas.

“The Commission shall organise and conduct elections under this Chapter and shall make such arrangements as are necessary to ensure that the elections are conducted honestly, justly, fairly, and by the law and that corrupt practices are guarded against. “The Commission may, by order in the official gazette, make provisions for the conduct of local government elections if no provision or insufficient provision has been made under this Act or the Rules.

“Article 140-A (1) of the Constitution states that each province is bound to establish a local government system and devolve political, administrative, and financial responsibility and authority to the elected representatives of the local governments by law, and Article 140-A (2) reads, “Elections to the local governments shall be held by the Election Commission of Pakistan.”

It remains to be seen how governments will react to this proposed document and what shape it will take if and when it is taken up for deliberation. It is anticipated that the federal and provincial governments may view this draft differently.

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PTI received unwelcome respite, according to Rana Sanaullah

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In the Sunni Ittehad Council (SIC) reserved seat dispute, the government would respect the majority ruling of the Supreme Court, according to PMLN senior leader and advisor on political affairs Rana Sanaullah Khan.

He stated that after examining the decision, the government’s legal team would react appropriately. According to Rana Sanaullah, the legal team would determine whether or not to submit a review petition.

“SIC petitions were rejected but PTI was given that relief which was neither asked in the petition nor contest during the proceeding,” asserted Rana Sanaullah in response to the ruling.

He argued that because parties established administrations with a simple majority, the PMLN-led unity movement did not have a two-thirds majority.

According to Rana Sanaullah, PTI should challenge election tribunal rulings, with the government carrying out the rulings.

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The membership of Sher Afzal Marwat has been suspended by PTI.

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According to sources, PTI officials convened with imprisoned party founder Imran Khan on Thursday to make a decision over Marwat.

The party authorities alleged that Sher Afzal Marwat had been consistently breaching party discipline over the past month.

“In the meeting with Imran Khan, it was mutually agreed that no leader holds a superior position within the party, and any other leaders who deviate from the party’s stance will face similar consequences,” they stated.

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has recently issued a show-cause notice to Sher Afzal Marwat due to his irresponsible utterances.

The notice, issued by PTI Secretary General Omar Ayub Khan, requires Marwat to provide an explanation for his utterances within a three-day period. These statements have been considered harmful to the party’s reputation.

The notification declares that making such utterances goes against the party’s code of conduct and contravenes the explicit directives of the party’s founder, Imran Khan, who has underscored the significance of accountable conduct.

Marwat was cautioned that if they fail to react or offer a satisfactory explanation, it could result in additional disciplinary measures.

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Supporting phone tapping for “national security,” Khawaja Asif

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In the continuous fight against terrorism, Defense Minister Khawaja Asif has stated that he is a strong supporter of security agencies’ phone tapping practices.

The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, particularly party head Omer Ayub, criticized and engaged in contentious arguments following Asif’s statements.

The significance of phone tapping for national security was emphasized by Khawaja Asif in an interview with a foreign media source. “Terrorism is the enemy that we fight. Given the circumstances, I will be in favor of phone tapping,” he said.

Noting that the phone tapping matter is presently being handled through the legal system, he further urged that everyone support the measure. “Phone tapping is necessary for national security,” he asserted.

By highlighting the PTI’s erratic position on the issue, the defense minister also rejected the party’s concerns as hypocritical.

Every action, whether legal and illegal, seemed acceptable to Imran Khan, the founder of the Pakistan Taliban, when he was on good terms with the authorities.” Asif said, “The same thing is hateful to his followers today.”

In order to prevent terrorism and protect national security, Asif emphasized the importance of phone tapping. Under the present conditions, I will be in favor of phone tapping. The fight against terrorism required it, he declared. In these difficult circumstances, he also urged detractors to think about the wider effects of security precautions.

After former prime minister Imran Khan complained about his phone being tapped, Asif hinted that the PTI’s present protests are politically motivated by pointing to earlier instances in which they had a positive relationship with the establishment.

For the purpose of maintaining national security and preventing any criminal activity, the central government granted Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the nation’s premier spy agency, permission to tap phones on July 8. A notification stating that Section 54 of the Pakistan Telecommunication Act 1996 permits ISI to record phone calls has been issued. Anything that falls under the notification category can be recorded by it.

The notice included a call recording feature in addition to the ability to track messages and calls. Subject to the prime minister’s approval, ISI personnel ranked 18th or higher are granted this authority. It will be feasible to record WhatsApp calls, SMS, and other applications in addition to cell calls, the release states.

Notably, on June 30, Justice Babar Sattar of the Islamabad High Court said that it is legally unlawful to monitor civilians in any way in the case of the audio leaks involving the son of former chief justice Saqib Nisar and Bushra Bibi. According to his ruling, the prime minister and the cabinet bear both collective and individual responsibility for the widespread surveillance of four million citizens carried out by the federal government through the system.

The prime minister should acquire intelligence agency reports and bring the issue before the cabinet, the court judgment stated. Furthermore, according to the decision, the prime minister must report to the court on the Lawful Management System within six weeks.

“The prime minister will tell whether the surveillance of citizens is going on against the law and constitution,” the court stated.

Along with identifying who is in charge of the surveillance system that is interfering with citizens’ privacy, he should also disclose who installed the Lawful Interception Management System and mass surveillance. By July 5, all telecom firms were ordered by the court to submit their reports about the Lawful Interception Management System.

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