THE delay by the PTI-led government in KP in providing the required information to the ECP for conducting LG polls in the province is not only a blow to democratic stability in the province, it also goes against the PTI’s own mandate of empowering politics at the grass roots. The ECP has persistently asked for official documents for the framing of delimitation rules, maps of urban and rural areas, notification of the total number of village and neighbourhood councils and the limits of tehsil councils, and data regarding the number of LG seats. But the government has failed to comply. This delay is in sharp contrast to the rushing of the Punjab Local Government Act, 2019, and the Punjab Village Panchayats and Neighbourhood Councils Act, 2019, through the PTI-dominated Punjab Assembly some time ago. Though the PTI seems to be employing two different strategies in the two provinces it governs, the goal appears to be the same. Given the prevailing political climate and the questionable performance of the PTI in KP, it seems that the delay is an attempt at holding on to the status quo. On the other hand, in Punjab, the rush to dismantle the existing LG system was seen as an attempt by the party to establish its own power base at the local level.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has time and again stressed the importance of strong local governments for enabling grass-roots development. It is ironic that the governments in KP and Punjab are following in the footsteps of previous rulers, whom Mr Khan calls ‘corrupt’. Playing petty politics will only create more hurdles in the way of effective service delivery to the citizens. Empowering local institutions and governments does not only uphold the spirit of good governance and of the Constitution. It also buttresses the ruling party’s own welfare efforts geared towards helping the poor people of the country.
Published in Dawn, October 13th, 2019