PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa cabinet will meet today (Tuesday) here to discuss the possibilities of holding the local government elections in the province, including seven merged districts.

However, sources in the local government department and the Election Commission of Pakistan claim that the electoral exercise is unlikely to take place in the current year.

“Delimitation and electoral rolls are essential components for holding elections that are currently not available,” said a source in the ECP.

He said the electoral rolls were likely to be finalised by the end of Jan 2020, while the completion of delimitation process required a minimum of two months.

Officials insist polls not possible this year due to delimitation, electoral roll issues

The ruling PTI’s core committee had decided last week to conduct the local government elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab to address the grievances of the residents of the two provinces, where the party has own governments.

Prime Minister Imran Khan had chaired the committee’s meeting.

The Peshawar High Court in a recent judgment pronounced that the holding of local body elections was not only a legal process but it was also essential for carrying forward the mandate of Article 140-A of the Constitution.

As the local governments in KP completed their tenure on Aug 28, the ECP is bound by the Election Act, 2017, to hold the new local body polls in the province in the next 120 days.

In this light, the elections are to be held by Dec 28 this year.

“There is no possibility that the local government elections in KP will be held before March 2020,” said an official, adding that work on new delimitation of constituencies had yet to begin in the province.

For the first time, the ECP will hold the local body elections in the defunct Fata, which was merged with the province in July 2018.

The provincial government has divided seven tribal districts into 628 village and 74 neighbourhood councils to introduce the three-tier local government system in the region. Under the local government system, the rural areas have been divided into village councils and the urban areas into neighbourhood councils.

Like the ECP, another source said the local government department was also skeptical about the holding of LG polls before the end of the current year.

He said major impediments to the elections that the department foresaw were the unavailability of the required infrastructure for village and neighbourhood councils in the merged districts, a delay in delimitation, and tough weather conditions in the mountainous areas of the province.

“The holding of elections in Hazara and Malakand divisions and tribal districts in Dec, Jan and Feb will not be an easy task due to tough weather conditions,” he said.

The official said staff for the neighbourhood and village councils in tribal districts, including 702 secretaries, hadn’t been recruited due to financial crunch.

The department concerned has sanctioned posts, which have not been recruited.

An official notification said other items on the agenda for approval are the revised annual development programme policy, sustainable development strategy 2019-23, approval of appropriate provincial department dealing with the Tribal Electric Supply Company and provision of gunmen (security) from the provincial police for lifetime to the former chief ministers and governors.

The grant of a monthly special allowance at the rate of one pay equal to initial of relevant pay scales to the employees of the directorate of reclamation and probation, the KP Whistleblower Protection and Vigilance Commission Rules, 2019, and recommendation of the employees’ salaries and allowances are also on the agenda of the cabinet meeting.

Published in Dawn, October 22nd, 2019