–GB CM threatens to dissolve assembly if its powers are curtailed before expiry of tenure
ISLAMABAD: A tug of war has started between the government and election commission in Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) as the commission has suspended the administrative and financial powers of the region’s government a month before its tenure ends to ensure free, fair and transparent elections.
According to a recent notification the GB chief election commissioner (CEC), it is duty of the election commission under Section 8(C) of the Election Act, 2017, to organise and conduct free and fair elections. The commission has banned all kinds of recruitment in any department and institution and use/release of funds for development schemes, community-based initiatives until the election of the GB Assembly and formation of the new government.
Showing strong reservations over the notification of CEC, the GB cabinet has submitted their resignation to Chief Minister Hafeezur Rehman, who has also threatened to dissolve his government in case the reservations over CEC’s decision are not addressed.
Sources said that during a cabinet meeting held late on Wednesday, the cabinet members authorised the chief minister to dissolve his government and take other options if the CEC did not address their concerns about its notification issued on May 18.
The regional government sought clarifications from the CEC in a written letter on Wednesday. According to the letter, the regional government has claimed that in the context of recruitment under Covid-19 in few regions/districts, the tests/interviews in progress need to continue to meet the indispensable human resource needs hence a blanket ban will affect the preparedness and government’s response towards the pandemic.
Regarding the releases to development projects, the government claimed that as per the approved budget of 2019-20, 70 per cent development funds were allocated for ongoing schemes and 30 per cent for new schemes. The government said that 30 per cent funds allocated have not been consumed/utilised due to the prevailing situation of Covid-19 and a bit delay in preparation of PC-1 and followed by administrative approval and resulting tendering process involved. It observed that the funds for new development schemes are always consumed only during the last quarter of the financial year and the federal government had not released funds for GB. Any such ban on issuance of administrative approval and award of tender will result in lapses of 30 per cent funds which may deviate from the budget passed by GB Assembly during budget session 19- 20, it added.
The government said that in the local government departments almost 50 per cent work had been completed and remaining funds would be utilised before June, 2020 as these schemes are annually planned and executed in the same financial year, therefore, any ban on the issue of approval and ceasing of funds at this juncture will result in lapses of more than one billion rupees.
“The GB Assembly has to frame Laws, make rules for the larger interest of public and government (cabinet has to frame policies, pass directives and seek results from the departments). If the executive authority of chief executive and cabinet and legislative powers of assembly are seized by this notification, legislature and government in true sense will cease to exist and the vacuum will be unbridgeable through any modes,” the government said in its letter.
It is worth noting here that the tenure of the incumbent GB government is set to end on June 24. The next general election in the region would be due within 60 days.
Earlier, the Supreme Court (SC) issued an order declaring that the upcoming general election in GB should be held on time and under the supervision of an impartial caretaker government setup. The president subsequently issued the order on May 15.