ISLAMABAD: In a move that may have far-reaching implications for democracy in the country, parliament is all set to include a new provision in the Constitution that will necessitate holding of local government (LG) elections within 120 days after expiry of an LG.
The long overdue amendment has been approved by the parliamentary committee on electoral reforms and will be tabled before parliament along with other legislations proposed to reform electoral system of the country.
Electoral reforms and policy on reserved seats
The parliamentary committee on electoral reforms has also proposed changes in Article 59, 213, 224, 121 and 208 of the Constitution through the amendment. The amendment, tagged as the 27th amendment, will also introduce changes in the Constitution’s Article 140A, which deals with the LGs.
Article 140A says: “Each province shall, by law, establish a local government system and devolve political, administrative and financial responsibility and authority to the elected representatives of the local governments”.
Clause 2 of the same article says: “Elections of the local governments shall be held by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP)”. However, the Constitution is silent as to when should these elections be held, giving the federal and provincial governments the freedom to defer the LG polls indefinitely.
Due to this lacuna in the Constitution, successive – mostly civilian – governments have deferred the LG elections even for a decade. The last LG elections that completed last year were held after a gap of almost 10 years and that too on persistent pressure of the Supreme Court of Pakistan.
Before the current LGs came into existence there were no LGs anywhere in the country since the constitutional cover given to them during Gen Pervez Musharraf regime expired in 2009. The process of LG polls that kicked off in four provinces in 2013 took three years to complete.
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In Pakistan, military governments have been witnessed to be more willing to establish grass roots level LG system. However, the political governments have been reluctant to devolve power to the LGs – a situation that results in a tug of war between the LGs and provincial governments.
Interestingly, the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) has never had any LG system. The Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan are also two regions where the LGs are yet to be established.
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