WHILE Balochistan is plodding along the path of establishing elected local governments, the other provinces, especially Sindh and Punjab, appear least interested in this essential component of the democratic project.
As reported on Thursday, the Election Commission of Pakistan has set Jan 28 as the date for the election of Quetta’s mayor as well as the chairmen of local councils.
The local polls’ process began in December 2013 and the elections on the 28th should bring the long-drawn exercise to a close. While Balochistan with all its security and political issues has gone ahead with the LG polls, it is indeed a matter of shame that more ‘stable’ provinces have shown little inclination to carry out the grass-roots democratic exercise.
There is some encouraging news from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa; delimitation has been done there and Imran Khan reportedly has said the polls will be held by April. Let us hope the PTI sticks to this latest deadline. However, where Sindh and Punjab are concerned, the situation remains bleak, despite demands — such as that of the opposition leader in the Sindh Assembly — to hold the polls without delay.
For example, the ECP told the Supreme Court recently that it had not received the data from Sindh and Punjab that would allow it to delimit wards. Despite the apex court’s pressure, both provinces have been slothful in completing the legal and procedural tasks required to pave the way for the polls.
This paper has said countless times that the provincial governments need to speed up the process and hold the polls without delay. Yet for some puzzling reason — perhaps fearing the loss of influence and control to elected local governments — provincial lawmakers have not been interested in holding LG polls.
This attitude is highly undemocratic and is tantamount to denying the people elected representation at the local level. The lack of local governments adds to the people’s miseries, as citizens have to cut through much red tape just to secure basic civic services.
Despite the sensitive law and order situation in the country, Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa need to move at full speed to prepare for the polls. Counterterrorism operations should not be used as an excuse to postpone polls indefinitely. If general elections can be held in a less than desirable atmosphere where law and order are concerned, there is no reason to block local polls in the current circumstances.
Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2015