PESHAWAR: The Election Commission of Pakistan has raised objections to a recent ordinance of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government that delayed the local body elections in the province for two years and declared the move a violation of the local government law and the Election Act, 2017.
The elections were delayed by the provincial government through the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Epidemic Control and Emergency Relief Ordinance, 2020, promulgated on May 12.
The ordinance meant to provide for the prevention and control of infectious diseases in the province, to implement and enforce a mechanism to control the spread of such diseases and to provide relief to the people in an emergency situation.
The law also provides for delaying the holding of the local government elections by extending transition period of switching over to new local government system introduced in April last year from six months to two years.
Through the ordinance, Section 120-A of KP Local Government Act, which was introduced last year for drastically changing the previous LG system, has now been amended to provide two years’ time instead of six months for all administrative actions for giving effect to the new local government system.
It further declares that the election of any local government shall not be conducted during the currency of declaration of the infectious disease.
The ECP has raised objections through a letter sent to the provincial local government department.
“—the extension of transition period for two years by a provision of KP Epidemic Control and Emergency Ordinance is not in conformity with Local Government Act 2013 and Elections Act, 2017 and the same may be reviewed and needful may be done as per law,” read the commission’s letter.
The ECP sought compliance report from the government.
The last local government setup in the province was dissolved on Aug 28 after its four years tenure and under the Election Act 2017, the polls should have held before Dec 27, 2019.
Under Section 219(4) of Elections Act, 2017, the ECP is bound to hold elections to the local government within 120 days of the expiry of the term of the local government of a province, cantonment areas and Islamabad Capital Territory.
Moreover, the ECP shall, in consultation with the federal or provincial government, make an announcement of the date on which the elections to a local government shall be conducted in a province.
“Both the provincial and federal laws are contradictory to each other regarding the holding of elections in KP. It is an election diarchy,” a senior ECP official told Dawn.
He said politicians of the province were required to raise the issue on all available forums.
“Who will fill the vacuum in the absence of local bodies for so long?”
The official said the government should clarify which law would prevail regarding elections and how two different laws would be implemented on one subject.
When contacted, special assistant to the chief minister on local government Kamran Bangash said the government had the legal mandate to make such legislation.
He said under the Election Act, 2017, the Election Commission of Pakistan was to consult the provincial government before holding polls.
“We will respond to the ECP in a day or two with the views that the provincial government has a mandate after the 18th Constitutional Amendment to make necessary legislation according to the prevailing circumstances,” he said.