Local government is a critical feature of the current political landscape in Pakistan. The upcoming and just held local elections in the country’s four provinces place Pakistan in an important phase of decentralization. On December 9th, the new schedule for local body election in Punjab was released from the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). Local elections will take place on 18th January in Sindh and on any date of February in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Balochistan held local elections on 7th December.
It has been a long effort to establish effective local governments in Pakistan. The previous Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) government suspended in 2009 the local government system instituted in 2001, and transferred charge to provincial assemblies. The 18th Amendment of the Constitution passed by the National Assembly of Pakistan on April 8, 2010, vested responsibility of holding local government elections with the provincial governments: It required that Pakistan’s four provinces (Sindh, Punjab, Balochistan, and Khyber-Pakhtunkwa) “establish a local government system and devolve political, financial, and administrative responsibility and authority to the elected representatives of the local government.” Nevertheless, no local elections had been held by 2012.
Why does the delay happen? The federal and provincial governments are reluctant to devolve their power and resources by the re-establishment of local government. A new tier of elected administration will also reduce both the administrative authority of the provinces and their control over the fiscal resources allocated for local administration and development
Another issue is the population Census which is the base of voter verification and inclusion of new voter crossed 18 years old. Pakistan last population census was done in 1998, and Pakistan went through three general elections in 2002, 2008, and 2013 without fresh population census. Therefore, ECP has sent a summary to the Prime Minister on November 22, 2013, drawing the Government’s attention toward the need to hold fresh population census before next general elections (News: Business Recorder). However, this is not for the upcoming local governments elections as the population census is not a pre-requisite. There might be confusion in verifying electoral lists.
Although there are hopes for no more delays, Sindh province has just asked for a further delay in holding local election polls from 18th January to March, and will announce the schedule on 13th December. The ECP secretary has asked Sindh to approach the apex court for a change in the schedule, otherwise the polls will be held on January 18, the official said. (Pakistan Post)
To learn more about Pakistan local government:
Our country profile “Pakistan”
Asia foundation “Local Government Critical in Pakistan’s 2013 Political Landscape”