True devolution of power may finally be making its way in the country with Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) becoming the second province after Balochistan to hold local government (LG) elections. It is hoped that the polls are successfully held today and a well-functioning LG system soon put in place. We can then hope for better governance and more accountability of elected representatives.
At the same, it must be remembered that just holding elections will not ensure good governance. There will be little real impact if basic modalities of how the LG system will function are not ascertained. There is still little clarity on the rules of governance that will come into place following the elections. Rules of business for the LG system at the district, tehsil and village levels are still not final. The provincial finance commission is yet to make a decision on the disbursement of funds in respective areas. Furthermore, the honorarium for the representatives elected has not been decided. These matters will determine how the system rolls out and its impact on the citizenry. The system should also clearly identify the respective duties and fund disbursement between parliamentarians and those elected in the LG polls. Coming to the actual polling process, the Election Commission of Pakistan has taken notice of reports that women may be barred from voting. It has issued orders to the provincial authorities to ensure that women’s right to vote is not illegally revoked. It is hoped that this instruction is taken seriously, especially in light of what happened in the Lower Dir by-poll recently, where none of the eligible 50,000 women were allowed to vote. In case of such an event, the election commission should show no reluctance in nullifying election results. LG polls have been a long time coming and it is hoped that Punjab and Sindh also follow suit. The system is seen by many as the answer to the myriad of problems of governance and we expect that once in place, the shaky foundations of Pakistan’s democracy finally find some stability.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 30th, 2015.
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