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December 19, 2015

Dark horses may lead local govts


December 19, 2015

ISLAMABAD: Dark horses may be elected heads of local governments in certain areas including the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) where a noted businessman, who enjoys the blessings and backing of some close aides of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, is leading the race.

He doesn’t figure among the directly elected chairmen of the fifty Union Councils (UCs) of the ICT and is expected to be chosen for a special seat through the indirect polls in which the chiefs of the UCs will cast their votes.

The Islamabad farmhouse of the affluent businessman is frequently visited by some well-connected people of the present government.

The only option for the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) to induct him in the Islamabad Metropolitan Corporation (IMC) to finally render him eligible for the contest of the capital mayor is to get him elected on the sole technocrat seat. He is not qualified to vie for the remaining fifteen special seats - women (9) and non-Muslims (2), workers/peasants (2) and youth (2).

The decision to nominate the businessman for the top IMC position to be taken by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif will be made only if he would feel that none from amongst the chairmen of the UCs is competent enough to grace the office of the Islamabad mayor, which will obviously be  the most important berth of the local governments across Pakistan.

In some other districts, the PML-N may also go for having mayors and district council chairmen from those who will be gotten elected on special seats.

In Rahim Yar Khan, Chakwal and Attock, the contest will be interesting as the PML-N did not emerge as strong in these districts as it was elsewhere in the three phases of the local elections. However, it is trying to work out arrangements so that it gets a significant share in the local governments.

Meanwhile, after a lingering wait, the local bodies in Punjab, Sindh and ICT will be in place and start functioning by the end of the next month.

They will go through another three stages prior to becoming functional, an official of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) told The News.

In the first phase, the ECP will officially notify the winners as well as the final results, containing details of the vote count, where they are yet to be issued.

Polling in some UCs where it was earlier postponed for different reasons was held in Punjab and Sindh on Thursday but the elections are still to be held in Sanghar where the polls have to be deferred for the second time due to precarious law and order situation.

In the second stage, the official said, the schedule to fill up the special seats of women, technocrats, peasants/workers and non-Muslims will be issued for their indirect election.

They will be chosen by those who returned in the three phases of polling spread over five weeks.

Thirdly and lastly, the election of mayors of metropolitan corporations, and chairmen of district councils, municipal committees and UCs will be simultaneously held. This will mark the completion of the protracted process of the first-ever scattered local polls in Punjab and Sindh.

Presently, the political parties are busy in firming up their nominees for the special seats for all the tiers of local bodies. These seats run into thousands in the two provinces.

In a predominant number of cases, the federal and provincial legislators of the parties, which secured majority, are playing a key role in the selection of the heads of the local governments in their respective districts.

The senior leaders of the political parties are giving importance to their opinion. This is also meant to avert conflicts between the heads of the local councils and  the federal and provincial lawmakers in their districts. The parties will obviously get their choices elected as per their numerical strength that they had gained in the polls.

The parties are currently finalising their choices for election as mayors of metropolitan corporations and chairmen of district councils, municipal committees and UCs.

Under the new system, those elected as heads of the UCs in urban or rural areas are members of the local bodies, which are also up in the ladder of the local governments.

It is not mandatory under the law to elect the heads of these institutions from them. The chiefs of the local bodies can be taken from those indirectly elected on special seats by the directly elected chairmen of union councils.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) has named its prominent fiery leader Wasim Akhtar as candidate for the mayor of Karachi and he will be surely elected because of its convincing victory in the December 5 polls in the mega city.

However, the PML-N and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) are yet to make their nominees public to become mayors and chairmen.

In the interior parts of Sindh, the PPP, which emerged as the winner in most districts, will get its ticketholders elected. In Punjab and the ICT, where the PML-N carried the day, it will easily have its cardholders in place.

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