Even though the Sindh government tried all means to get the local government (LG) elections delayed, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) did not pay heed to its request. It upheld the Supreme Court’s orders in the matter and insisted that the LG elections will be held across the province on January 18 next year. This refusal to bend under the government’s delaying tactics shows that the ECP is developing into a strong institution, which is capable of imposing its decisions on the authorities. If allowed to maintain its strength and neutrality, we will see in the future, an institution that is capable of conducting polls that are free from all political influences and incidents of rigging.
While we laud the ECP for upholding Court orders, we must also censure the Sindh government for trying to delay the polls. First, the government delayed the redrawing of boundaries of constituencies, which was a prerequisite for the LG elections to take place. This delayed all subsequent formalities. In an apparent bid to further delay the polls, the Sindh Assembly also passed amendments to the LG law, which aggravated the opposition parties and ensured that all the previous prerequisites had to be conducted all over again. Eventually, the Sindh cabinet also announced that the provincial government planned to hold the elections in March, which the ECP has rightly ignored. Provincial government officials are now warning that elections held in haste may not be fair. Instead of making excuses and absolving itself of all responsibilities ahead of the actual polling day, the Sindh government must start making arrangements so that the elections are held in a fair and transparent manner.
The importance of local government in a democracy cannot be emphasised enough as it is that part of the government that is most accessible to the people. If the government is committed towards the institution of democracy, then it must allow a vibrant local government set-up to be formed so that problems can be tackled at a micro level.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 21st, 2013.
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