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Politics at the grassroots

KP is all set to hold the local government election on May 30

Politics at the grassroots
The rush to file nominations for local bodies candidates.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is finally holding elections for the local governments on May 30 to expedite the developmental works and other projects at the local level that were pending for many years. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf led government in the province has been consistently saying that the MNAs and the MPAs of the party will only do legislation while the developmental projects at the local level will be supervised by nazims and councillors after introducing an effective local government system.

The process has finally begun after a delay of several months.

Tens of thousands of candidates have submitted nomination papers for the general seats as well as those reserved for youth, women, minorities and peasants between April 13 and April 17. The verification of nomination papers, objections by rivals and the process of appeals is going on. The final list of the candidates will be displayed on May 6 after being allotted elections symbols on May 5.

The polling will be held on May 30 and the result will be officially announced on June 7.

Strange seats adjustments have been made at the district level by the political parties since the polls for the district and the tehsil councils are being held on political parties’ basis. The ruling alliance of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Jamat-e-Islami are flexing muscles against each other in different districts. The PTI and JI are also contesting against each other in cantonment board elections in Peshawar and many other cantonment areas in the province. The Awami National Party, Pakistan People’s Party and Jamiat Uelma-e-Islam Fazal have formed a tripartite alliance against the PTI and its allies in most parts of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

However, in some districts the opposition alliance is not intact as the local leadership has been given the authority to make adjustment as per its requirements.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government as well as the KP assembly had demanded of the Election Commission to hold the polls through the judiciary so no one could make any objection over the process. “We want the election commission to hold the polls through judiciary so that no one can point finger at the transparency of the process,” KP minister for local bodies Inayatullah told a meeting at the provincial headquarters of Jamat-e-Islami in Peshawar. The demand was supported by all political parties as the KP assembly unanimously approved a resolution to ask the election commission for holding the LG polls through judiciary. However, the demand seems to have been made a little too late.

“The provincial government is working on the by-laws and rules of business to hand over 24 departments to the local governments,” continued Inayatullah, of JI. He admitted that despite being in alliance in the KP government, the JI and PTI are yet to form alliance at a few places for the local bodies’ polls.

Under the newly-introduced system, a village council or neighborhood council comprises ten to fifteen members. The number of seats of general councils varies from five to ten on the basis of population. The one securing highest votes as general councillor will be appointed nazim and the second one as naib nazim of their respective village or neighbourhood councils. Besides, there will be two members elected on seats reserved for women and one each for youth, minorities and peasants.

In the same process, one each member will be elected for district and tehsil councils from the old union councils (which are now divided into two or three village/neighbourhood councils). The district and town councillors will later elect nazim and naib nazim of their respective councils in the next phase of the elections to complete the process.

“It is like that Hazarkhwani-II has been divided into three village councils, Garhi Qamardin, Sadozai and Hazarkhwani, now. Voters in all the three village councils will separately elect their general, youth, minority, female and peasant councillors and those securing highest votes will be made nazim and naib nazim. However, the voters of all the three village council will collectively elect one each member for district and town/ tehsil council,” explained Nazir Mohammad Khan, a candidate for the general councillor from the Garhi Qamardin Village Council in Peshawar.

Analysts believe the system is too confusing for the candidates and the voters. “Voters even didn’t know that they have to vote for district and town candidates separately. If they had to elect members for district and town councils other than nazims and naib nazims, they should have been elected from every village and neighbourhood councils like other councillors as there is no role of union council in the new system,” said Yousaf Ali, a senior journalist covering local governments in KP.

He added that a nazim will have no say in district and town councils if his opponents are elected to the two bodies.

He said the government should have arranged education and awareness sessions for the voters and the candidates. “Another major thing is that besides transparency, the government should arrange foolproof security for the polls as well as electioneering in the wake of military operations in tribal areas. The people should vote for deserving candidates so they do not regret their choice after polls,” said Yousaf Ali.

Police have already issued directives to the concerned to upgrade security once the electioneering begins. There were a number of attacks on candidates in the May 2013 general elections, mostly targeting the candidates of the ANP.

“A comprehensive plan has been chalked out to ensure adequate security to the candidates and the voters throughout during the campaigning and the polling. Police have been directed to patrol the areas where rallies and public meetings are held,” said Sajjad Khan, a senior superintendent of police (SSP) who heads the police force of the Swabi district.

According to the official website of the Local Government Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, there will be a total of 39,806 councillors elected in the village and neighbourhood councils. According to the website, there are a total of 2835 village and 504 neighborhood councils all over the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that will elect 23,111 general councils, 6678 female councillors and 3339 each youth, minority and peasant councilors. Peshawar being the largest city of the province has 216 village councils and 130 neighbourhood councils, followed by Mardan, Swat and Abbotabad with the most number of councils. Peshawar will have 4244 councillors in village and neighbourhood councils. The lowest number is that in Torghar where there is one neighbourhood council and 39 village councils.

“The number of councillors will exceed from 40,000 once the councillors elected for district and towns will be included. The next phase will be that of election of district and town/tehsil nazims and naib nazims that will complete the process,” said Mohammad Iqbal, a spokesman for the ministry of Local Government Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

There seems to be more powers given to the district governments in the new system. The key functions of village council and neighbourhood council will be to monitor and supervise the performance of functionaries of all government offices located in the area of the respective village council or neighborhood council, including education, health, public health engineering, agriculture, livestock, police and revenue.

Besides, it will provide effective forum for out-of-court amicable settlement of disputes by constituting panels of members as conciliators, registering births, deaths and marriages within the jurisdiction, improving water supply sources, maintaining water supply distribution system and taking measures to prevent contamination of water.

There have been allegations from the opposition parties even before the polls that the government has plans to rig the elections. “The KP government has planned to rig the elections but we are not going to allow them to do so,” the central general secretary of the ANP Mian Iftikhar Hussain told a press conference recently.

Provincial president of the Pakistan Muslim League Quaid Intikhab Chamkani Advocate also questioned the delay of the announcement of official results. “Delaying the announcement of result for a week puts a question mark on the transparency of the polls,” stated Chamkani who added that the process will be an example for other provinces if there was no corruption, rigging, political interference and favouritism in the polls.

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