After an unreasonable and unconscionable delay in the holding of local government polls, at last the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has expressed willingness to complete the electoral process for the lowest tier of government by March 2022, while the first phase of the LG elections will be held in December this year. The holding of LG polls in other provinces is still in doldrums due to alleged unwillingness of respective governments of Balochistan and Sindh.
The LG elections are held by the Election Commission of Pakistan on a party basis, which can provide the soil for future national leaders. The holding of local government elections is part of a democratic system, which helps ordinary citizens get their civic problems resolved through local representatives. The present three provincial governments showed apathy towards holding these elections and kept delaying the process through lame excuses and dodging the ECP’s orders. A major reason for the persistent delay in holding elections is said to be the delimitation of constituencies. Especially in Sindh and Punjab, this difficulty is portrayed as an almost impossible task. The provincial governments of the PPP and PTI respectively in these provinces are reluctant to complete this democratic process because they are reluctant to let go of and devolve power to the grassroots. It would deprive the elected members of the provincial and National Assemblies of these provinces of the perks and privileges they enjoy due to control of development funds meant for local governments. This is not the business of the elected members of the provincial and National Assemblies, who are sent to the houses to legislate, not attend to civic problems.
It is the moral and constitutional obligation of the Election Commission of Pakistan to deliver free, fair and transparent elections at the local level. The present Chief Election Commissioner has shown some seriousness to resolve the issue and this has forced the representatives of the Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governments to commit to a tentative schedule for the elections. Despite the fact that local government elections are in the best interests of the country, being the lowest rung of the democratic edifice, the provincial governments must now stop making lame excuses to delay this process.