Islamabad - The PML-N government finds itself caught in a ‘locked-in syndrome’ as opposition parties are lending little support to pass the Islamabad Capital Territory Local Government Bill 2015 with election activity already gaining momentum for the first-ever LG polls in the federal capital.

The main opposition parties, PPP and PTI, are not ready to accept non-party based elections and also criticise the government for its failure to get a law passed before the issuance of schedule by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).

The bill is yet to be passed by the Senate though it has been cleared by the National Assembly.

The ECP issued schedule last Tuesday to conduct the local government elections in Islamabad. According to the schedule, the dates for filling nomination papers were June 25 and 26 while the dates for scrutiny of papers are June 29 and June 30. Polling in the federal capital will take place on July 25.

The elections will be held in 79 Union Councils. There will be 13 seats for each Union Council. These include one Chairman, one Vice Chairman, six general seats, one youth, one peasant, one labour, two women and one minority. The election for Metropolitan Corporation will be held in the second phase.

In March, the National Assembly passed a bill paving way for Local Government elections in Islamabad to be held on a non-party basis.

The Bill, awaiting approval in the Senate, also fixed a 33 percent representation for women in the local bodies.

The lower house had rejected an amendment bill tabled by the PPP proposing the local bodies’ election to be held on party basis.

Talking to The Nation, senior PPP leader Qamar Zaman Kaira said, “The government looks confused. Party-based elections are being held across the country and they are bringing a separate rule for Islamabad”.

Kaira, a former information minister, said the PPP understands the ECP issued the schedule under the Supreme Court’s directives but “the government should have consulted parties to bring a law to complete the process”.

He said the LG polls in Punjab are also coming up, “so will they also hold non-party based elections there”.

He ridiculed the government’s inefficiency saying, “They have not been able to pass a law. The schedule has been announced, the people have filed their nominations and we are waiting for the Bill to be passed by the Senate”.

He said the Supreme Court cannot pass laws so the government needed to move the court for more time to hold the polls until the Bill was passed into a law.

Kaira said elections under a draft-law will be a “drama” adding, “The government must concentrate on getting the Bill passed”.

He however, said the PPP was not ready to support the Bill to hold the elections on non-party basis.

Asked to comment, PTI leader Senator Nauman Wazir Khattak said, “Although the ball is in the court of the PML-N and the PPP, we will not support non-party based elections.”

“We do not have the required numbers to stop the Bill in the Senate but we hope the PPP and others will not approve non-party based elections”, he remarked.

“It is a failure of the government to be waiting for the passage of the Bill while the schedule has already been issued”, he contended.

Earlier, leader of the opposition Khurshid Shah had said that if the government was so obsessed with the non-party polls, why doesn’t it hold the election for the provincial and national assemblies in the same pattern.

Shah maintained that non-party elections had introduced corruption in Pakistani politics.

He said that independent candidates always join the government if they are successful in elections.

PML-N’s Senator Iqbal Zafar Jhagra said the elections were being held according to the deadline set by the Supreme Court.

“We support party-based elections but at this time, we may have to go with the party-less polls. It will still be party-based polls as the parties will definitely nominate their candidates”, he said.

He hoped the Senate will pass the LG polls Bill in the upcoming session, summoned for July 6. “I am sure the Bill will be passed before the polling. We are ready to listen to the opposition for their inputs”, he added.

Senator Jhagra said since these are the first LG elections in Islamabad, “there will be confusion. We are sure things will settle down”.

Some legal experts thought the Islamabad LG polls may become a futile exercise if the Bill is not passed by the Senate before the polling.

Known legal expert S M Zafar said that the government must try to bring the law before the polls. “How can they implement a Bill when it has not become a law? This whole thing could be challenged in the court”.

Others argued that the election could not be challenged in the court as the SC has ordered to hold elections on July 25.