Conducting transparent and peaceful local government elections is the responsibility of the Election Commission.
After the election, the local governments should be empowered administratively and financially so that they can serve the people.
These views were expressed by the representatives of the Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Muslim League-N, Muslim Conference and Tehreek-e-Insaf as well as lawyers, journalists and civil society members while addressing a conference organized by the Center for Peace, Development and Reforms (CPDR) regarding local government elections to be held on November 27, 2022, in Azad Jammu and Kashmir.
Speaking at the event, Azad Kashmir PPP leader and opposition leader Chaudhry Latif Akbar said that he is ready to cooperate with the government to make the local government system more empowered. The government should present a bill in the Legislative Assembly pertaining to this.
The opposition wants to bring into existence a local government system which is in accordance with the requirements of the present time.
Without the devolution of financial and administrative powers to the grassroots level, the local bodies will not be able to serve the citizens as per their expectations and the people will be disappointed with them.
He said that the Election Commission should lead this process and instead of looking towards the government, it should consult political parties on its own.
Muslim League-AJK President Shah Ghulam Qadir said that the concept that political parties are against the establishment of a local government system is wrong. We only want an effective and dignified local government system, capable of meeting the expectations of the citizens.
In this context, it should be figured out what powers the District and Union Council members have and from where will they get the financial resources?
He said that no one still knows who has the powers and what shape this system will take after the election. Shah Ghulam Qadir said that the Election Commission is a constitutional institution. It must prove his impartiality. It is responsible for conducting transparent elections. The final responsibility will be of the Election Commission.
Sardar Usman Ali Khan, the central leader of the Muslim Conference, raised the concern that the Election Commission as an institution is only responsible for conducting the elections and it has no precise voter lists, yet is not able to delimit the correct constituencies. He suggested that a plan should be devised to increase the efficiency of the Election Commission so that it can fulfil its responsibilities in a decent way.
He said that the Muslim Conference is a strong supporter of the idea of transferring power to the lower level and involving political workers in local administrative affairs. Sardar Usman said that instead of judging the local body elections on the scale of victory and defeat, it should be considered a part of the political process and bitterness should not take root in hearts.
Dr. Shaheen Akhtar, Qamar Rahim, Fatima Anwar, Mahwish Bakht, Akram Ali, Arteza Muhammad, Wasi Tahir, Bilal Rajput, Imran Ali Chaudhary and others also addressed the event. Former minister Farzana Yaqoob said that local bodies are the soul of democracy without which new leadership cannot grow and political parties cannot become strong. Therefore, it is very important to hold this LG election with continuity.
Syed Ali Hasnain Gilani, Coordinator of SDGs for Azad Kashmir, said that according to the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations, Azad Kashmir’s growth and prosperity indicators are better than other regions of Pakistan, especially in education and health sectors. —NNI