The ruling party is under fire from all angles whether it is at the federal level or provincial level with the latest disappointment onslaught coming against it on the issue of devolution of powers.
When the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) came into power, it promised to delegate powers to the grassroots level to empower local bodies however now more than 3 years into its tenure in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) polls have still not been conducted.
The long-due elections were postponed by law in June of 2020 when the K-P government passed legislation to not hold elections in the province for at least two years to curb the spread of the virus. A move that several sources state was like giving an excuse some legal cover.
Sources indicated that the PTI has been delaying polls, citing either Covid or the law and order situation, so far to gain an advantage in the next general election. They predicted that the provincial government would conduct local government (LG) polls a few months or at least a year before the general elections to ride the victory wave.
A senior politician part of the opposition in the K-P assembly, speaking on the condition of anonymity, concurred with this view stating, “delaying the polls will certainly benefit them if their plan is to stay in power.”
Similarly, a PTI leader, requesting anonymity, acknowledged the advantage the party was trying to gain, “there is no doubt that if you have won the local government elections recently, you have the ground prepared to win in the general elections as well.” He further revealed that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had given a notice to the provincial government twice regarding the provision of a schedule for the LG polls but the government sought more time in reply to the notices.
The ECP which has been pushing the government for some time now, wanted polls conducted before the year was over. The provincial government citing rising superspreader cases and winter’s imminent arrival did not share the ECP’s urgency, instead opting to refer the matter for discussion and approval to the provincial cabinet.
The issue was brought to the cabinet and a five member committee was formed which failed to hold a single meeting, as per sources. However, the K-P Advocate General (AG) Shumail Butt informed the Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) that the cabinet had approved the provincial government’s intention to hold polls in phases and the first phase of the elections would start in November.
“Polls for village and neighbourhood councils will be held between November to December however there are chances that polls will be delayed until May in some areas due to cold weather,” the PTI source party informed but no fixed timeline or tentative schedule was offered on holding the City and Tehsil Council polls.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 21st, 2021.
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