ISLAMABAD: The previous PPP government ignored an advice of the defence ministry to hold the local bodies’ elections in cantonment boards which had been without public representatives for 14 years. “The defence ministry submitted a summary to then prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf in December last year for holding the LB polls in cantonment areas but no decision was taken,” a senior official of the ministry told Dawn on Sunday on condition of anonymity.
He said the summary should have been forwarded to the Election Commission after its approval by the prime minister, adding that rules had also been framed under the Local Government Ordinance 2002. Under the rules, the official said, the defence ministry could not directly approach the Election Commission for holding the LB elections in cantonment areas. The request has to be made by the federal government.
He said it had been a tradition to hold polls in cantonment areas after LB elections were conducted in the four provinces. “It is believed that the government and the defence ministry wanted to follow this tradition.”
A senior official in the Prime Minister’s Office confirmed that the defence ministry had sent the summary to Raja Pervez Ashraf. “As far as I know nothing was done on the summary by the former prime minister.”
The Supreme Court is seized with a petition filed in 2009 by one Rab Nawaz of Quetta challenging the absence of local bodies in cantonment boards. He contended that the authorities were violating the constitution by not holding the elections for 14 years.
The apex court noted with concern that last such elections had been held in October 1998 and observed that the elections could be of help in curbing the menace of extremism in society since it solved people’s problems at the grassroots level.
Former vice-president of the Rawalpindi Cantonment Board Shiekh Inayat said the absence of local bodies had created a gulf between residents and the military authorities running the affairs of the cantonment boards.
Not only military personnel and their families but a large number of civilians are living in cantonment areas and in some cases the population of a cantonment area is said to be almost equal to that of another area in a city. Mr Inayat said there were 53 cantonment areas, 13 of them smaller ones like Mangla, Pannu Aqil and Loralai.