ISLAMABAD: The National Assembly on Thursday approved a government bill to increase the number of union councils from 101 to 125, amid frantic efforts to delay local government (LG) polls in the federal capital.
The move came on December 31, less than 10 days before the vote, and the bill was passed without a quorum during a session that lasted less than 40 minutes.
When a lawmaker asked if the house was in order, Speaker Raja Pervaiz Ashraf replied in the affirmative without ordering the counting of votes.
According to a fact sheet prepared by the Free and Fair Elections Network (Fafen), 86 members were present, while 54 legislators were present at the beginning of the session and only 43 at the end.
Procedures have been suspended to allow for immediate consideration of the Islamabad Metropolitan Local Government Reform Bill submitted by Justice Minister Shahadat Awan on behalf of Interior Minister Rana Sanaullah.
PTI dissident Ramesh Kumar Vankwani tried again to point out the lack of quorum when the bill was taken up, but his voice was ignored by the speaker.
Ahead of the vote on the controversial bill, Jamaat-e-Islami’s Maulana Akbar Chitrali raised questions about the last-minute decision to amend the law a week before the December 31 vote.
He said devolution of power to grassroots organizations is a constitutional obligation and the only way to serve the people effectively. It is regrettable that the constitution has been turned into a game, and that it has become a habit of the authorities to play around with it.
He noted that the move, aimed at delaying the LG polls in the capital, was unconstitutional and opposed it.
PTI dissident Ramesh Kumar Vankwani also criticized the National Assembly being convened for just one day to pass the controversial bill. He asked the government why it was trying to run away from the elections, saying that the all-day session had cost Rs 50 crore in the national kitty.
MQM-P’s Sabir Qaim Khani supported the bill and called for delimitation of LG constituencies in Sindh.
“How can we serve the people when there is no population limit,” he asked.
The House also passed the Federal Employees Welfare Fund and Group Insurance Amendment Bill. The bill was submitted by Parliamentary Affairs Minister Murtaza Javed Abbasi.
A senior official of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) explained the development to Dawn newspaper, saying that the ECP will stick to its position as it is committed to conduct the local government elections as per schedule. He said that any amendment to any act cannot negate the provisions of the constitution.
He said that all the stages of the election have been completed, including preparation and verification of candidates’ materials, decision of the appeals court, finalization of candidates, distribution of symbols, announcement of voting scheme, appointment and training of polling staff and printing of ballot papers. The stage is now set for the LG polls.
He said the ECP, in its December 20 order, said the Union government had increased the number of union councils from 101 to 125 without the approval of the Election Commission under Section 4(4) of the ICT Act, 2015. .
The section reads: “After the electoral commission has started the electoral process, the government may change the boundaries of the territory specified in this section in consultation with the electoral commission, but the government will not change the boundaries of the electoral districts. After announcing the date of the local elections.”
He said that the move to amend the bill at this stage is not only unethical and unethical but also illegal.
Amendments to LG Act
Provisions for increasing the number of union councils and directly electing mayors and vice-mayors are the main features of the amendment bill on the union passed by the National Assembly.
Section 6 (1) of the Islamabad Metropolitan Area Act, as amended: “Under this Act, there are one hundred and twenty-five Union Councils in the Capital City of Islamabad. The Union Government may increase the number of Union Councils from time to time by notification in the Official Gazette on the recommendation of the Ministry of Interior. , can be reduced.”
Similarly, in the replaced article 12, paragraph 3, “mayor and vice-mayor shall be directly elected by voters as joint candidates. The election of the mayor and deputy mayor will be held on the day of the election of members of the Union Council in accordance with Article 11.
Posted on December 23, 2022 at dawn