SC orders local govt polls in cantonments
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court directed the federal government on Thursday to ensure that local government elections were held in all 53 cantonment boards in the country soon after expiry of the term of the existing set-up run by military officers on May 5.
“Steps be taken to ensure elections in the cantonment boards after completing the required process under the Local Government Ordinance 2002,” the court said while disposing of a petition filed in 2009 by Raja Rab Nawaz from Quetta challenging the absence of local governments in cantonment boards.
During the regime of Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf, the military authorities strengthened their hold on cantonment areas and the station commander (head of a cantonment board) started reporting directly to the corps commander of the area.
The last elections were held in October 1998 and the cantonment boards have been without public representation for 14 years in violation of the Constitution.
The prime minister had granted a one-year extension to 31 cantonment boards in 2012 which would expire on May 5 this year.
At the last hearing on Dec 21, the court had asked the Election Commission of Pakistan if it could hold local government elections in cantonment boards, especially when the general election was round the corner. The defence ministry had informed the court that Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf was seized with a summary moved under Section 14 (1b) of the Local Government Ordinance 2002 and after its approval no further extension would be granted to the tenure of the current set-up of cantonment boards.
On Thursday, a representative of the ECP assured the court that the commission was ready to hold elections in cantonment boards after May 5 after completing necessary procedures like updating of electoral rolls, delimitation of areas and arrangements for polling stations.
“The significance of the representatives of local governments becomes all the more important for ensuring good governance,” observed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry who heads a three-judge bench hearing the case. He said citizens could not be deprived of their fundamental rights of electing their representatives.
The court also noted the significance of the regulation which empowered the ECP to hold elections in cantonment boards and said it was the responsibility of the federal government to implement the law in letter and spirit.
Deputy Attorney General Dil Mohammad Khan Alizai said the announcement of a date for LG elections was a prerogative of the ECP and soon after getting an approval from the prime minister the commission would be requested to make necessary arrangements for elections in the cantonment boards.
The court ordered that soon after the approval of summary by the chief executive, arrangements be made to hold the elections in all cantonment boards and set a deadline of May 5 for completing the election process.