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RAWALPINDI: Having already delayed the election of the mayor of Rawalpindi for over seven months, the PML-N seems to be in no mood to go for the electoral exercise in the near future.

Some local leaders of the ruling party said the provincial government was comfortable with the bureaucracy to run the affairs instead of handing them over to the elected members of the local government.

They also said the party leadership had tried to bring in a suitable candidate for the post of the city mayor as they found the existing stuff not able to deliver as per the party policies.

PML-N leaders say ruling party wants bureaucracy to run local affairs instead of handing them to LG members

Thirdly, they said, the provincial government was facing a shortage of funds due to the multi-billion development projects underway in Lahore and it had no funds to allocate for the local governments. After the formation of the local governments in the province, the elected members would ask for funds to launch development projects but the government had not allocated funds for the LG governments in the current fiscal year.

During the elections, PML-N city president Sardar Naseem appeared as a strong candidate for the mayor of Rawalpindi but things changed when the party won 40 union councils and the opposition parties could secure only six union councils in the local government election held on December 5, 2015.

After the elections, two more candidates - Sajjad Khan and Arslan Hafeez - emerged within the party who wanted to become the mayor. Sajjad Khan joined the ruling party after quitting the PML (Q) and Arslan Hafeez belonged to the traders’ community.

However, the two candidates’ efforts and frequent visits to Lahore for lobbying for the post of mayor drew resentments from the local party workers. Most of the local workers were of the view that both the candidates took benefits from Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain’s party during the tenure of Pervez Musharraf when the Sharifs were in exile.

On the other hand, Sardar Naseem’s candidature also drew opposition from the local leaders. “Sardar Naseem had worked as the chairman of Rawalpindi Development Authority (RDA) and the in-charge of the Rawal Town Municipal Administration for six years but failed to arrange funds for the city as compared to NA-56 where Hanif Abbasi managed to launch multi-billion projects,” said a senior party leader from the city area.

He said the party was likely to follow the decision of the prime minister who brought a technocrat mayor in Islamabad.

“Former MNA Malik Shakil Awan is also interested to become the mayor of Rawalpindi after being elected to the Rawalpindi Municipal Corporation on a reserved seat of labour.”

He said former MNA Hanif Abbasi also wanted to bring his own man as the mayor as he helped more than 15 candidates win the LG elections in the union councils falling in NA-56.

When contacted, Malik Shakil Awan said the party would decide about the mayor in coming days before the election on the reserved seats of women and others.

“The elections on reserved seats could not be held as the matter is still pending in the court. As soon as the court clears the case, the provincial government will start the process for the nomination of women members and the mayor and chairmen of the district council,” he said.

However, he admitted that it would take more than two or three months for the formation of the local government.

Mr Awan neither denied nor accepted rumours about his interest in the post of the mayor. “I am not a union council chairman but the final decision will be taken by the party,” he said.

Published in Dawn, July 10th, 2016