PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has changed its plan of holding local government elections for tehsil and village and neighbourhood councils in two phases and instead decided to hold polls for both the tiers together.
For holding separate elections for both the tiers, the local government department had also amended the KP Local Government Act, 2013 last year, according to sources. The government has already done away with the third tier of the local bodies system i.e. district council.
Some quarters in the provincial government and Election Commission of Pakistan, had termed the decision of holding separate elections for both the tiers unwise and expensive, saying it would need double cost and energy.
“Now the provincial government has decided to hold elections for both the tiers on the same day,” said sources. The local government department has also conveyed its decision to Election Commission of Pakistan and Supreme Court, which is currently hearing a case about holding of local bodies’ elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab provinces.
Tehsil, village and neighbourhood council elections will now be held on same day
Sources said that delimitation of the councils was completed in 28 districts of the province while it would be completed in six divisional headquarters by March 8 and by April 13 in Peshawar.
About delay in delimitation in seven divisional headquarters, they said that there were some issues in demarcating boundaries of the councils in divisional headquarters where city local governments would be established.
An official in ECP told Dawn that change in decisions regarding holding local bodies’ elections showed non-seriousness of the government. From the day one, he said, ECP was against holding of local government elections on the same day as it was not possible keeping in view the situation of security and administration.
He said that ECP had been insisting on holding elections in phases in different regions as elections in phases would be well organised. “The previous LG elections held in 2015 were conducted on the same day. The polls were unprecedentedly largest and poorly managed as it was impossible to provide security at each polling station,” said the official.
He said that conducting general elections was possible on the same day as the numbers of ballot papers and polling stations were much lesser than those of local bodies’ polls. In the general elections, he said, the voters had to cast two ballet papers each one for National Assembly and other for provincial assembly while in local government polls, the voters had to cast five to six ballot papers for general seats and reserved seats for women, peasants, youth and non-Muslims, which required more time.
Sources said that provincial government also amended Section 79 of KP Local Government Act, 2013 by incorporating an additional clause, 1-A in it last year to hold separate elections of both tiers of the local bodies.
The additional clause 1-A states: “Notwithstanding anything contained in sub-section (1), if the government decides that the elections shall be held separately for village and neighbourhood council and for the chairman, tehsil local government, it may request the Election Commission to hold elections in two phases and the election commission shall hold the elections accordingly.”
Under the KP Local Government Act, 2013, elections for village and neighbourhood council are to be held on non-party basis while for tehsil council the polls should be conducted on party basis.
In the new local bodies system to be enforced after elections, chairman of the village and neighbourhood council will be a member of the tehsil council while the tehsil chairman will be directly elected by the people. In the past, the chairman of tehsil council was elected by the councillors.
The tenure of the three tiers of local bodies installed in 2015 had expired on August 28, 2019.
According to Section 219 of Elections Act 2017, fresh polls have to be held within 120 days of the expiry of the term of the existing local bodies.
However, the provincial government has failed to conduct elections in the timeframe mentioned in the law.
Published in Dawn, February 22nd, 2021