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Parliament in second bid to postpone LG elections

13 November, 2013

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ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Tuesday unanimously adopted a resolution, second in less than a week, seeking more time for holding of local government (LG) elections, and asked the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to fix a "practical date" for the polls.

Moved by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf's (PTI) Dr Arif Alvi the resolution received support from across the political divide amidst a charged atmosphere. The lawmakers were of the opinion that the resolutions being passed by the House were being disregarded, an apparent reference to the stance of the Supreme Court and the ECP on the issue. The resolution demanded putting in place all necessary legal and administrative arrangements throughout the country to ensure the elections are free and fair. It termed haste in the matter a violation of Article 140 A(2) of the constitution.

The resolution stated that the House is fully conscious of the need to hold local government elections in accordance with the constitution. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle gave strong statements over the alleged disregard of the resolutions passed by the National Assembly. "Whoever refuses to act upon the resolutions of parliament is defying it. If we cannot get our resolutions implemented then there is no need to do this job," PML-N's Sheikh Rohail Asghar remarked. He asked the parliamentarians to stand united by putting aside party differences for the supremacy of parliament which, he noted, had been bestowed on it by the 180 million people of the country.

Leader of opposition Syed Khurshid Shah, whose speech triggered the debate on the local government elections, appealed to the judiciary to "not ruin other institutions by its stubborn attitude". "Why are you bulldozing parliament despite the fact it had reinstated (sacked) judges?" Shah questioned. He asked if the judiciary will not give respect to parliament who else would. The opposition leader was so critical of the judiciary over the local government elections that Speaker Ayaz Sadiq had to expunge some of his words by terming them non-parliamentary.

Shah reminded the judiciary that when it needed parliament's help it sought support on 19th Amendment on the appointment of judges in the superior judiciary. "Why have you made it a point of ego? Because you are retiring on December 11?" Shah remarked. He asked the judiciary to restrain from giving decisions that disgrace it. Addressing Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, the opposition leader said that if the local government elections are held in March 2014 the history would remember him for helping transfer power to grass roots level.

Speaking on the issue, Pakhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party chief Mahmood Khan Achakzai said that parliament did not want confrontation with the institutions of the state, however, all of them, including army and judiciary, must remember they are subservient to it. "This parliament can even amend all clauses of the constitution," he noted, adding that judiciary's job is to interpret constitution. Achakzai dubbed the resolution an order of parliament, saying ECP is bound to act upon it. Earlier, the House rejected, with majority vote, Constitution (Amendment) Bill 2013, which was moved by MNA Jamshed Dasti. It sought raising of age limit for retirement of the chief justice of Pakistan to 67 years from current 65.

In a rare show of camaraderie, treasury and opposition sides in the Lower House of parliament had on Thursday unanimously passed a resolution to delay the local bodies' elections in Sindh and Punjab to ensure transparency and fairness. The resolution, which was moved by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, stated that conducting the local bodies elections in haste would cast doubts on the transparency of the election results.


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