GILGIT: Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Election Commissioner Raja Shehbaz Khan has said the GB election commission is ready to hold local bodies’ (LB) elections, which have not been held for the last 18 years creating problems for the masses, in the region.

Talking to Dawn on Tuesday, Mr Khan said GB Local Bodies Act needed to be passed by the region’s assembly and that was blocking the holding of LB polls, adding that the GB government had the mandate to announce holding of local bodies elections in the region.

Mr Khan said the GB Election Commission had made all preparations to hold free and fair local government elections and it was even ready to hold general elections in GB.

“Local bodies’ elections have not been held in GB for the last 18 years. Local bodies are important for resolution of people’s problems at the grassroots level as they strengthen democratic institutions and because of this the region will be on the path of development,” Mr Khan said, adding that in any society, local government institutions played a key role in resolving the people’s problems on their doorstep.

He said the GB Election Commission had started the process of holding local elections and 1,300 employees from various departments had been deputed to conduct the process of door-to-door verification of voters’ lists.

Gilgit-Baltistan CEC says local elections not held in region for 18 years; PTI, PPP trade barbs over legislation

The GB chief election commissioner asked heads of all political parties of Gilgit-Baltistan to fully cooperate with the GB election commission in performing this important national duty so that the upcoming local bodies’ elections were held in a free, fair and transparent manner.

When contacted by Dawn, GB Minister of Law Syed Sohail Abbas Shah, who belongs to PTI, claimed the GB government was serious in holding local bodies elections in

the region.

He said GB government had prepared a draft bill of local bodies act to get it passed from the GB Assembly.

He said the draft bill of the local bodies act would be first approved by the GB cabinet and then it would be tabled in the assembly for approval and then local elections would be held in the region.

However, the opposition leader in the GB Assembly, Amjad Hussain, told Dawn that the PTI government in the region did not want to hold local elections and transfer of power at the grassroots level in the region.

“The PTI government of GB is fleeing from holding local government elections in the region,”

he said.

Mr Hussain, who is also the Pakistan Peoples Party’s local president, said that during the PPP tenure in the region, the GB Assembly had passed the Local Government Act. However, he said, the incumbent PTI government in GB was reluctant to implement that act and hold local elections under the law.

He demanded that the PTI government either table a bill in the GB Assembly or implement the GB Local Bodies Act, which was passed by the GB Assembly in 2014, under the PPP so that local government polls could be held and problems of the masses could be resolved.

In April 2021, the Gilgit-Baltistan Chief Court had directed the GB government and the GB Election Commission to hold local bodies elections in the region immediately.

A two-member bench comprising Chief Justice Malik Haq Nawaz and Justice Ali Baig had passed the judgement while hearing a petition seeking holding of LB elections in GB.

In its short judgement, the GB Chief Court had said the GB government had been illegally running local bodies institutions through non-elected administrative officials who had been allocating funds in the name of local bodies which, the judgement said, was against principles of fair distribution, transparency and good governance.

The court had also directed the GB government to take necessary steps to hold local bodies polls in GB without delay. However, the GB Chief Court verdict remained unimplemented and on June 13, 2022, because of non-implementation of its order, the GB Chief Court ordered the region’s government to issue local bodies elections schedule within a month.

However, the chief minister challenged the court’s verdict in the GB Supreme Appellate Court which suspended the chief court’s order. The case has been pending in the appellate court since then.

Published in Dawn, January 25th, 2023

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