More than 500 candidates who had submitted nomination papers for the aborted 2013 local government (LG) elections on Friday demanded that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) immediately announce to hold LG polls in the province.
The candidates voiced their demand at a convention organised jointly by two non-government organisations (NGOs), PATTAN Development Organisation and the Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN). Earlier, the candidates held a protest demonstration. PATTAN shared findings of its recent survey based on the candidates’ interviews. More than 50 per cent of those surveyed blamed the federal and Punjab governments for “sabotaging” LG elections. It said 39 per cent of the respondents intended to hold rallies to pressure the government to hold LG elections. The survey noted that the candidates’ anger was understandable since many of them had lost large amounts of money they had spent on their election campaigns as well as the nomination fees they had deposited. It said on average a candidate had spent about Rs146,000 on the nomination fee and campaign expenses.
According to the ECP, around 200,000 nomination papers were filed for LG elections in the Punjab. This means the candidates had spent around Rs28 billion by the time the elections were aborted, the survey concluded.
Speaking at the convention, PATTAN Development Organisation head Sarwar Bari said, “Without local councils, the Punjab will never have good governance and better services.”
“No bureaucracy can perform well even in advanced democracies without local elected councils’ oversight.”
Representatives of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, Pakistan Mustaqbil Party, Pakistan Peoples Party and Awami Workers Party also spoke in favour of LG elections.
A large number of representatives of trade unions, NGOs and bar associations also participated. After tehsil and district level conventions, a bigger convention of local council candidates would be arranged in Lahore within three weeks, according to PATTAN.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 17th, 2014.