PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government is understood to be considering a proposal to hold the local body elections in the province in two phases.
The officials insist that the unprecedented move if made will double the expenditure and human efforts required for the electoral exercise.
They told Dawn that the proposal said the elections would be held for village and neighbourhood councils in the first phase and for tehsil councils in the second.
The officials said under the KP Local Government Act, 2013, the elections for village and neighbourhood councils would be held on non-party basis and those for tehsil council elections on party basis.
They said the ruling PTI wanted to hold the village and neighbourhood council elections just to see the people’s reaction to its policies, especially in light of higher prices, economic crisis and joblessness.
Official insists ECP can object to idea over higher expenditure
The officials said the phase-wise election proposal had been discussed by the local government department in several meetings.
They added that the department had sought the opinion of the law department regarding amendments to the local government law for holding separate elections of both tiers, the village and neighbourhood and tehsil councils.
The officials said besides involving increased human resources, the separate elections would also cost Rs8-Rs10 billion each.
Health minister Shahram Tarakai, who held the local government portfolio until the last week cabinet reshuffle, denied that the ruling PTI was reluctant to hold elections for both tiers at the same time due to its poor performance.
“With the abolition of the district tier, now the government departments have to be devolved to the tehsil level where a lot of infrastructures needed to be established for running the devolved department,” he told Dawn.
The minister said the infrastructure and appointments required for local bodies were not in place, so the elections for tehsil councils were likely to be held in the second phase.
Regarding the village and neighbourhood council polls, he said no department would be devolved nor had new powers been given to the lowest tier of local bodies, so their elections would be held in the first phase.
Asked about the doubling of expenditure and human efforts in case of separate elections, the minister said increase in electoral expenses was not an issue.
However, an official of the Election Commission of Pakistan said objection was likely to be raised about the phase-wise local body elections and that the ECP would give its input in that case.
“It is strange that unlike other parts of the world, the provincial government is trying to increase the election expenditure instead of minimising them,” he told Dawn.
The official said the elections could be held in phases in terms of districts and divisions and not in categories and that it didn’t seem to be a wise idea.
He said the 2002 local body polls were held separately in divisions/districts.
“Each and everything will double if the provincial government decides to hold separate local body polls. That has never happened,” he said.
The official said the PTI government had failed to conduct local body elections within the stipulated 120 days after the completion of the term of the last local bodies on Aug 28, 2019, and thus, violating the Elections Act, 2017.
Published in Dawn, January 16th, 2020