ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court of Pakistan yesterday ordered holding of election for mayors, deputy mayors, chairmen and vice chairmen of Sindh local government through secret ballot within 60 days.

The court also directed the Election Commission of Pakistan to hold election in Sindh for reserved seats, mayors, deputy mayors, chairmen and vice chairmen within 60 days.

In a short order, the court ordered the office to send a copy of it to the ECP secretary, the Sindh chief secretary and other authorities concerned for their information and compliance.

A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Anwar Zaheer Jamali, had reserved the judgment after hearing the arguments on Thursday.

The court noted it was within the competence of the Sindh government to enact the law to hold elections of mayors, deputy mayors, chairmen and vice chairmen either through show of hands or secret ballot. However, in the present case, since amendment had been brought into effect under Section 18 of Sindh Local Government Act, 2013, after the announcement of the election schedule, it was of no legal effect.

The PPP-led Sindh government managed amendment in the Sindh Local Government Act 2013 to replace secret balloting for mayors and deputy mayors with show of hands.

The amendment was subsequently challenged by Muttahida Qaumi Movement and Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) in the SHC through identical petitions.

On February 9, the Sindh High Court struck down the amendment and ordered immediate elections via secret ballot. The Sindh government challenged the verdict in the Supreme Court.

However, the SC short order ruled that in the present case, since such amendment had been brought into effect under Section 18 on January 18, 2016, after the announcement of election schedule on August 26, 2015, it was of no legal effect and that the ensuing elections for these posts would be held through secret ballot as per the Sindh Act No.XXXVIII of 2015.

The short order further ruled that all notifications regarding transfers and postings of bureaucrats issued by the appellant after the date of announcement of election schedule for Sindh local bodies, without prior approval from the Election Commission of Pakistan, are declared to be without jurisdiction and of no legal effect.

The court further ruled that the changes brought into SLGA 2013 via Third Amendment to introduce five percent reserved seats for youth and increased women reserved seats from 22 percent to 33 percent is held to be validly legislated and will remain operative.

“With the consent of the appellant and respondents No 1, 3 & 9, all the reserved seats as prescribed under Section 18 shall be filled up in terms of Section 18A of the Sindh Local Government Act, 2013, which will be revived and such amendment will be brought into effect by the appellant immediately,” said the order.

The court ruled in case requisite legislative amendment is not made within two weeks, these seats shall be filled in the manner as otherwise prescribed by law.