After the completion of the phased local government elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Balochistan and Sindh governments have completed the first phase of the local government elections. The Supreme Court had to intervene and forced the governments of the day back in 2021-22 to go for the local government elections, saying the local council system is the basis of any democratic practice. However, unfortunate and time-to-time emerging political instabilities hitting the governments has affected the local bodies the most as the system remained suspended for more than half of the country’s history. The rest was devoted to experiments as the local councils were never allowed to work independently, and for that reason, from Khyber to Karachi, no city or town can be seen as an example of an ideal system. After the three provinces’ phased complete or incomplete local council systems in place, now the Punjab government has taken a vital step towards the conduct of the local bodies elections.
The provincial cabinet in its meeting, chaired by Chief Minister Hamza Shehbaz Sharif, on Friday approved the new local body system under which Rs18 million has been allocated for each union council in the next financial year. According to the decision, 14 municipal corporations will be formed in the province while seats for youth, women, farmers, minorities and the disabled have been doubled at the union council level. The next financial year is set to begin on July 1, for which early local elections are essential. Furthermore, the checks and balances system should be made more effective so that the fruits of local bodies can reach the people in a timely manner without any limitations.
It is hoped the local government system will launch and improve sanitation in rural areas. The system introduced by the Hamza government is entirely different from what the previous Usman Buzdar-led government as the newly introduced Punjab Local Government Act, 2022, Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan, Gujranwala and Rawalpindi and divisional headquarters – Sargodha, Bahawalpur, Sahiwal and Dera Ghazi Khan – are declared metropolitan corporations while 14 municipal corporations are being formed. The landmark change is that departments of primary health, primary education, social welfare, family planning, sports, transport, civil defence, public health, arts and culture and tourism will work under the district level local governments.
The elected heads of the local government are empowered to select officers from a panel to work on the board. In the developed countries, health and sanitation, water supply and drainage, paved streets, health centres, educational facilities, public parks, transport, standard and uninterrupted delivery of essential commodities at fixed prices are considered a guarantee of a successful local government system. It can be seen that the success of developed countries is driven by their successful local government system. The same thing must happen in Pakistan now.