Local governments under the MNAS and MPAs

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    Devolution of power losing its meaning

    Democracy is predominantly regarded as the best political systems prevailing in the modern world. It is a reality that beauty of democracy lies in its third tier because people get an opportunity to elect the representatives from their own area. Here in Pakistan, the voters had been deprived of third tier of democracy for more than a decade for ‘unknown’ reasons. All the provincial governments announced to conduct the Local Government (LG) polls only after the consistent pressure from the Supreme Court. In Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK), the local governments have been formed. The process of LGs in Punjab and Sindh is one step from culmination as the last phase of polling is going to be held in the coming days.

    It is an established truth that LG polls are known as the nurseries of national level politicians. The importance of LGs can be gauged by a single precedent that the incumbent president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was first elected as the Mayor of Istanbul in 1994. The condition of this city was miserable when Erdoğan took the charge as Istanbul was plagued with water shortage, traffic chaos and air pollution. The theft rate was at its peak at that time but history has witnessed that Erdoğan had drastically changed the fate of this city by curing all its perennial problems. It is a matter of fact that the Mayor of Istanbul has won three consecutive elections for the slot of country’s prime minister and is serving as the president of Turkey nowadays. Historians and political analysts believe that the turning point of Erdoğan’s political career was his tenure as Mayor because he delivered at that time and transformed himself into a strong politician. Here, in Pakistan, the story is not altogether different as numerous politicians of national stature are the product of local government elections. Like him or hate him, Shaikh Rasheed Ahmad, the veteran politician from Rawalpindi, knows all the techniques to attract the public attention very well. Undoubtedly, he came up from the LG polls and has taken a space in the national political arena. Top politicians like Shah Mehmood Qureshi, Ch Nisar Ali Khan and Makhdoom Javed Hashmi have risen in national politics via the nurseries of local governments.

    It is an established truth that LG polls are known as the nurseries of national level politicians. The importance of LGs can be gauged by a single precedent that the incumbent president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was first elected as the Mayor of Istanbul in 1994

    It is for the eighth time that LG polls are being held in Punjab since 1979. In the past, five LG polls were held in the province under military regimes in 1979, 1983, 1987, 2001 and 2005. Only two LG polls were held under civilian setups, in 1991 and 1998. It is a strange co-incidence that both times PML-N was in power. For the first time in the history of province, LG polls are being carried out on party basis.

    Local government elections are slightly different in nature from general elections because voters are well aware of their respective candidates and that’s why these elections attract greater fervour.

    Hassnain Aslam, a voter from UC-51 of Lahore, told DNA that LG polls have their own appeal as these elections cater to a smaller area in comparison to general elections, and candidates go from door to door to gather support. He was of the view that the practice of LG polls is a healthy sign for democracy as voters take part at the grass root level to elect their representatives.

    An interesting aspect of the recent LG polls was the emergence of more than one thousand independent candidates in the first phase in Punjab, even though all major parties took part.

    A diehard worker of PML-N from PP-147, Rafi Siddiqui, thinks that the plethora of independent candidates was due to rifts within the ranks of political parties. He was of the view that one can see independent candidates even in Gawalmandi of Lahore; the home constituency of the prime minister.

    “It is a dilemma of our politics that respective MNAs and MPAs are awarding the tickets of LG polls. They mostly oblige their blue-eyed only and this leads towards rifts in the party”, said Rafi, who has an association of more than two decades with PML-N.

    Omer Farooq, a worker of PTI from UC-4 who performed the duty of polling agent shared his personal experience with DNA by saying that the core reason behind the win of independent candidates was that the LG polls were held for the first time on party basis and our parties are not strong enough at grass root levels. He was of the view that the promises and offers by the candidates of the ruling party push people to vote for them. Omer was unaware of the mandatory powers of his candidate but he was supporting him just because of his close association with the candidates.

    A diehard worker of PML-N from PP-147, Rafi Siddiqui, thinks that the plethora of independent candidates was due to rifts within the ranks of political parties. He was of the view that one can see independent candidates even in Gawalmandi of Lahore; the home constituency of the prime minister

    Shahab Khan was the candidate for the slot of Chairman on the ticket of PTI from UC 127 of Lahore but could not win. He was of the view that every voter has a different psyche. He said that the number of ideological voters is very low as most of them follow the trend on polling day, out of fear that their vote would be wasted if given to the weaker party.

    His personal business of property suffered a lot and he has spent all his savings on the election. He told DNA that a majority of voters in his area cast their votes because the ruling government initiated development projects prior to LG polls and now the work on these projects has been halted. He termed this a sheer violation of ECP code of conduct.

    One can witness hectic negotiations these days among political parties to select trustworthy candidates for the slots of Mayor and Deputy Mayor, as these local government representatives will play an important part in the future general elections. The old politicians and heavy weights are manoeuvring to get the persons of their own choice for these slots, according to reports.