ISLAMABAD: With local government (LG) elections in the capital just over a month away, leaders of major political parties – the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) – are looking forward to a rousing election campaign after the allotment of election symbols on Dec 1.

PTI leader Shiraz Kiani said that currently his party’s main target was the long march but after December 1, the party “will go for a full-fledged campaign to win a majority of seats”.

The PTI will win a majority of union councils to elect its mayor in the capital, he claimed. “We will repeat our performance of by-elections in the local government elections as well…as PDM’s government has failed to deliver and more and more people are joining us,” Mr Kiani added.

According to the PTI leader, a petition seeking the lifting of Section 144 was pending in the Islamabad High Court because it would not be possible for thousands of candidates to get approval for public gatherings and for the district administration to entertain such a large number of requests, Mr Kiani said, adding that elections would be held in 101 union councils and in each union council, there were 12 seats which meant that “more than 3,000 candidates would be contesting elections”.

DC says candidates to be allowed to organise gatherings after request

PML-N leader Sardar Mahtab said in 2015, his party won a majority of the local government seats and vowed to win Islamabad’s local government elections once again.

“PML-N is a symbol of development…we launched many development projects in Islamabad,” he said and added that based on development work the party will “win this election comfortably”.

Meanwhile, PPP and PML-N also plan to field joint candidates in some union councils against the PTI.

PPP’s Central Secretariat In-Charge Sibtul Haider Bukhari said that the joint nominees would be fielded in at least 15 union councils, adding that the PPP will win a significant number of seats.

According to the Deputy Commissioner Irfan Nawaz Memon, Section 144, imposed in the federal capital in light of the PTI long march, would not come into the way of canvassing, as candidates will be allowed to organise rallies after permission.

The elections will be held on Dec 31 and symbols for political parties and independent candidates will be allocated on Dec 1 after which the campaign will take off, Mr Memon said.

“[Local bodies] elections are a constitutional matter and local administration cannot bar any political party or candidate from holding public gatherings, corner meetings and rallies,” the deputy commissioner said, adding that, “whoever wants to organise a gathering or a rally, they just need to submit an application and the permission will be granted”.

In 2015, elections were held in 50 union councils (UCs). This time, the government increased the number of UCs from 50 to 101. In the upcoming elections, over 984,000 voters would cast their votes to elect their local representatives for the next five years.

In the last elections, PML-N and PTI candidates gave a tough time to each other while PPP could not win a single seat. However, some independent candidates backed by the PPP had secured victories.

The outcome of the last local government elections – Municipal Corporation Islamabad (MCI) – failed to deliver due to lack of funds by the federal government. The MCI did not even have financial rules for the proper disposal of works. Later, PTI came to power but it too did not pay any heed to the MCI.

Resultantly, the first-ever local government completed its tenure in February 2021 even without paying due honorarium to the UC chairpersons.

On the last day in the office, the UC chairpersons were seen making efforts to get an honorarium for their five-year term, but their efforts remained in vain.

Punjab local govt polls

Meanwhile, the Punjab government directed all the deputy commissioners of the province to provide details of urban and rural areas to their respective district election commissioners for the local government election.

The Punjab local government department secretary wrote a letter to all deputy commissioners to facilitate the Election Commission for holding local government as the new Local Government Act 2022, enacted on November 10.

After this, the Rawalpindi election commission has asked deputy commissioners for Rawalpindi and Murree to provide details of rural and urban areas.

Rawalpindi Election Commissioner Roy Sultan Bhatty asked Rawalpindi and Murree Deputy commissioners to provide notification of the demarcation of local areas in each district, authenticated maps of urban areas according to demarcation, showing thereon census blocks and circles and separate authenticated maps of rural areas showing thereon district and tehsil boundaries.— Aamir Yasin also contributed to the story

Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2022

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