Thursday June 08, 2023

LG polls

By Editorial Board
November 16, 2021

As the first phase of local government polls in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) is approaching, other provinces appear to be lagging behind in that direction. The Election Commission of Pakistan has taken a timely step by constituting 64 appellate tribunals in 18 districts of the province. After much dilly-dallying, KP is now taking the lead by scheduling the first phase of the polls for December 19, 2021. It is also worth appreciating that the Peshawar High Court (PHC) delivered a clear decision and ordered the elections to be party-based. The LG polls in KP will now take place in two phases: first in 17 districts from December 19, whereas the second phase for the remaining 18 districts will be on January 16, 2022. The KP cabinet has also approved the Local Councils Conduct of Elections Rules to govern the upcoming polls. If we look at other provinces of Pakistan, the preparations are slow with repeated delays in announcing the poll schedule. The government of Sindh, after procrastinating on the issue for long, has now announced that the next LG elections in the province will take place after another four to five months. This announcement by Sindh Labour Minister Saeed Ghani is disappointing to say the least.

Ultimately it is the responsibility of all provincial governments to hold such elections on time as the constitution stipulates. The government of Sindh has been using the pretext of the controversial census results and blaming the delay in polls on the federal government. Other provinces have also been using various excuses such as the need to carry out fresh delimitations for the elections which they could not do in years. The courts and the ECP have been issuing directives to the provincial governments but they seem to be in no hurry to listen to their advice. There is a need to expedite the work and start enacting the required legislation to govern the polls. Since the approval of provincial assemblies is necessary for the new delimitation of constituencies, it is up to them to enhance their pace of work to facilitate LG polls. The Supreme Court of Pakistan has also time and again given directives for conducting fresh delimitations. It is surprising that the Sindh government is still asking for another four to five months before the polls can take place. In Balochistan, the situation appears to be even worse as the joint provincial election commissioner recently announced that the ECP would issue the final electoral rolls in April 2022.

The process of door-to-door verification of voters in Balochistan began on November 7, and is likely to end by December 6. Then there will be another month or so before the data entry completes in January next year. In the second week of November, the ECP had rolled out directives for the Balochistan, Sindh, and Islamabad administrations to do all that is necessary within the next 15 days, to conduct LG polls. In Punjab too the ECP has told the Punjab government to ensure compliance with its directions regarding the conduct of LG elections within 120 days after December 31, 2021, which will be the last day of the five-year term of the local governments which came into existence under the Punjab Local Government Act 2013. The ECP has asked the Punjab government to provide updated Local Government Act-2019 and PLG (Elections) Rules 2021 by November 30. Now, the provincial governments must carry out the necessary amendments in the election laws to have polls conducted within the deadline. The provincial governments must also submit the maps of constituencies and the necessary data to their respective ECP offices. It is a pity that our provincial governments have repeatedly failed to follow their own LG laws, forcing the courts and the ECP to pass orders.