SC on Local Govt elections

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ABOUT two and a half years ago, Prime Minister Imran Khan had promised to introduce a local government sys
tem in the provinces to address the problems of the people at the grassroots level. As nothing happened on that front, it is once again the Supreme Court which has been compelled to intervene for the resurgence of the elected local governments.

Expressing dismay over the delay, the apex court on Thursday sought schedule from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) for the local government elections in the provinces. The court noted that those creating hurdles in the Constitution’s implementation are committing high treason. The term of local governments in Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa expired on January 27, 2019 and August 28, 2019 respectively while Punjab dissolved its local bodies on 04 May 2019. Similarly, the local government’s tenure in Sindh ended on August 30 this year. According to the section 219 (4) of the Elections Act, 2017, the ECP shall hold elections to the local governments within 120 days of the expiry of the term of the local governments of a province. This means that the legal deadline for holding the LG polls has already passed. But now as the apex court is seized with the matter, we are confident that the matter will be taken to a logical conclusion as was seen in the past. It is imperative that the final results of the sixth population census be officially published after approval from the Council of Common Interests (CCI) so that the Commission could carry out delimitation to meet its constitutional obligation. There should not be further delay to complete the whole exercise and that too in the most fair and transparent manner so that nobody could point a finger on it. At the same time holding the LG polls alone will not be enough unless the local representatives are also fully empowered by devolving political, administrative and financial authority to them. Only fully empowered local governments can serve the cause of addressing the problems of people at their doorsteps. It is the local representatives who understand the problems of common man better than anybody else. Building elected LG structure and decentralizing powers were an integral part of the ideology of Pakistan. While there will be elements which might not value this idea, it is incumbent upon us to continue striving for promoting the real essence of democracy.