PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has decided to do away with the minimum requirement of 5,000 population for the creation of a village and neighbourhood council with experts fearing the misuse of the move by influential politicians in own areas.

Currently, the province has 3,501 village and neighbourhood councils.

The minimum and maximum population size covered by these councils is 5,000 and 15,000, respectively in line with a decision made before the 2015 local body elections.

The merger of seven tribal agencies and six frontier regions with Khyber Pakhtunkhwa increased the number of village and neighbourhood councils to 4,203.

Officials told Dawn that the local government department had decided to remove the 5,000 population condition for a village and neighbourhood council.

CM aide says move to ensure resolution of people’s problems on their doorstep

They, however, said the maximum population size for those local bodies would remain 15,000.

An expert on local government told Dawn that the proposed move could be misused.

He said during the process of delimitation, the boundaries of village councils could be drawn in such a manner that they would benefit the trouble-free election of influential politicians.

“It’s not a wise decision as if the establishment of village and neighbourhood councils begins without the condition of the minimum population, then every influential person will opt for a small council. And it will be very difficult to handle the whole affair,” he said.

When contacted, adviser to the chief minister on local government department Kamran Bangash said the lawmakers of seven merged districts had demanded an end to the minimum population condition for the speedy resolution of the people’s problems on their doorstep.

“The populations in the erstwhile Fata and several other districts of KP are very scattered in mountainous regions,” he said. The adviser said if village councils were established with the minimum population of 5,000, then a village or neighbourhood council would cover a lot of areas.

He said a council set up on a vast area would lose the spirit of its formation, which was to resolve the people’s issues on their doorstep.

“The minimum population condition is currently not feasible as the local councils in Chitral, Kohistan, DI Khan and other districts of the province cover large areas,” he said.

Mr Bangash said the population block and village boundaries wouldn’t be disturbed nor would a village overlap another in the upcoming delimitation to be carried out after the changing of the current population condition.

He said the Election Commission of Pakistan would carry out the delimitation after the KP Local Government Act, 2013, was properly amended.

Regarding the abolition of the population condition, sources said the local government department had proposed an amendment to Section 6 of the law and that draft amended law was with the law department for vetting.

They said the amendment proposed for the replacement of Section 6(5)(e) of the law through a new provision by doing away with the 5,000 population condition.

The proposed sub-section states: “the population of village and neighbourhood council within a district shall be up to a maximum of 15,000 calculated on the basis of last preceding population census officially published, and if the results of national population census are not officially published then the village and neighbourhood council shall be delimited in accordance with the provisional results of national population census, 2017.”

The official said there was a proviso to the proposed sub-section, which provided that the Election Commission of Pakistan could, for reasons to be recorded, waive any of those conditions.

An ECP official told Dawn that the doing away of the minimum 5,000 population condition should be restricted to seven merged and remote districts and should not be applied to the entire province.

He added that if that didn’t happen, the establishment of the village and neighbourhood councils would be disproportionate.

Published in Dawn, March 26th, 2020