KP LG Elections: A manifestation of peoples’ unshakable trust in democratic process

By Fakhar Alam

PESHAWAR, Dec 26 (APP):The first phase of the two-month long local bodies’ elections has been successfully completed in 17 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where all the mainstream political parties besides the independent candidates go all out to secure maximum seats in tehsil, village and neighborhood councils with a strong commitment to provide better civic services to the people at their doorsteps.

Having eyes on 2023 general elections, the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUIF), Awami National Party (ANP), Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League (PMLN), Jumaat- e-Islami (JI) and others have fielded experienced and non-experienced candidates on all 66 tehsils, village and neighborhood councils in these districts to measure their popularity among masses and increase its votes bank after delivering for betterment of people in the new local government system 2019 under which vast powers were granted to the LG representatives.

The JUI-F and PTI have emerged the largest political parties in Peshawar, Mardan, Swabi, Nowsehra, Kohat, Karak, Dera Ismail Khan, Bannu, Tank, Haripur, Khyber, Mohmand, Charsadda, Hangu, Bajaur, Buner and Lakki Marwat districts where the former with 16 seats has achieved slight edge over the latter with 12 seats out of the declared 45 tehsil councils results so far. The gap of tehsil seats between JUI-F and PTI was narrowing i.e. 16:12 seats as the results of 21 tehsil seats are still awaiting.

The ANP had also shown promising results by winning six tehsils seats including Mardan Mayor, three by PML-N, one each by PPP, TIP and Jumat-e-Islami and seven by the independent candidates. The PTI has outclassed all political parties and independents in its stronghold Buner where it won four tehsil seats and two out of three seats in Nowshera district, according to provisional consolidated results.

After witnessing crushing defeat in 2018 general elections, JUIF has gained ground in the first phase of local bodies’ elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where it clinched four tehsil mayor seats of Peshawar, Kohat, Bannu and DI Khan while Mardan’s mayor seat was won by ANP.

For the first time, people of merged tribal districts exercised their right of franchise in large numbers. In Mohmand tribal district, PTI’s Naveed Ahmed had won tehsil Lower Mohamad by securing 7,931 votes and tehsil Bezai by Bismillah Jan (JUI) with 4,788 votes. In Khyber tribal district, tehsil Jamrud was secured by Syed Nawaz (TIP) with 9,398 votes.

In terms of securing maximum number of votes, PTI has clinched first position by obtaining highest number of 7,89,000 votes in 45 tehsils while JUIF stood runner up with 7,55,000 votes and ANP with 4,66,000 votes bagged third position respectively. The PML-N has won fourth position with 2,67,000 votes, Jumat-e-Islami clinched fifth position with 2,38,000 votes and Pakistan People’s Party bagged sixth position after obtaining 2,30,000 votes.

Sohail Ahmad, Spokesperson of Provincial Election Commission of Pakistan told APP that all the successful candidates of the recent LG elections have been directed to submit details of election expenditure within 10 days with their respective returning officers, otherwise their notification would not be issued.

“Winning or losing is part of the election. For me, the overwhelming participation of people and all political parties besides independent candidates with over 40 percent voters turned out in recent LG elections is important. It is manifestation of their unshakeable trust in political process, which is good omen for democracy of Pakistan,” said Prof Dr Abdul Rauf Khan, Chairman Political Science Department University of Peshawar while talking to the news agency. He said local bodies system was like a nursery of producing young politicians to serve the country besides improving civic services at grassroots-level.

“Election purifies the democratic system. The results of LG elections are a wakeup call for all political parties as people wanted resolution of their problems,” he said, adding that the new LG system 2019 has granted significant powers to local bodies’ representatives to address their issues at the level of tehsils, village and neighborhood councils.

The new local bodies’ system is all set to perform its functions in KP where 251 services of the 21 offices have been transferred to tehsils governments, officials in Local Government Department told APP. Out of 251 services of the 21 offices, the officials said 18 services of tehsil municipal regulations of Tehsil Municipal Office (TMO), eight each of planning infrastructure architectural and services and maintenance of slaughterhouse, six of finance and five of the municipal administration were placed at the disposal of tehsils councils.

Similarly, 210 services of different departments that was earlier under arrangements of Assistant Commissioner, were transferred to tehsil government including 28 of the elementary and secondary education, 22 of the finance and budget, 21 of the livestock, 18 of the coordination, 14 each of population welfare and revenue administration, 12 each of the public engineering and social welfare, 11 of local government and rural development, eight each of the planning and development, youth affairs and seven of soil conservation, six each of the agriculture extensions, fisheries and human resource management.

Tehsil governments were also granted the powers of looking after the municipal services’ markets regulations, issue different types of licenses, permits and impose fines, overseeing municipal lands and implementation of municipal laws besides taking action against encroachment.

Holding of cattle melas, cess tax collection, cultural events, arrangements of bus terminals, taxi stands, libraries, vocational trainings, planning and infrastructure services, water supply and control on water schemes, drainage of rains waters, sanitation, solid waste management of industrial units and hospitals, fire fighting, disaster management and slaughterhouses, preparation of details of developmental programs and computerization of land record of municipal services etc also came under its jurisdiction.

These councils were authorized to take effective measures for enforcement of compulsory education act, oversees infrastructure schemes of the primary schools, distribution of free books and establishment of education monitoring committees.

Provision of grants under youth development program, sports events, ensuring participation of youth in regional, provincial and national games, implementation of Water Policy 2015 and Rural Drafting Act 1986, collection of different types of taxes and a large number of other services were transferred to the tehsil councils. The new local bodies’ system has granted vast powers to the LG Commission and Chief Minister to ensure smooth functions of tehsils governments.

Any tehsil chairman or member of tehsil, village and neighborhood councils could be placed under suspension for one month in case of inquiry, and that the Chief Minister has the power to dismiss any chairman or member of these councils if found guilty on the recommendations of LG Commission.

The Chief Minister was authorized to suspend or cancel decision of a council while the LG Commission were assigned powers like of civil court to inspect functions of any local government council on an annual basis and order its third party audit if need arises. Similarly, the village and neighborhood councils has been empowered to monitor and implement development projects and recommend required development work in their respective areas besides performing the duties of registration of birth of newborns, marriages, divorces and issue death certificates. The councilors would organise sports events, organising cattle markets and shows.

“The PTI government has granted vast powers to tehsils, villages and neighborhood councils and no proposal regarding reducing the powers of local bodies’ representatives was under consideration,” said Barrister Muhammad Ali Saif, Special Assistant to the Chief Minister for Information. He said local bodies’ representatives were empowered to initiate new development schemes and take decisions under the law.

Barrister Saif said the draft of rules of business prepared under KP local government act has been sent to Law Department for scrutiny. However, the proposed rules of business have not been sent yet to KP Cabinet for consideration or approval. He clarified that there was no section in the proposed rules of business pertaining to minimizing or reducing the powers of local bodies representatives.

Barrister Saif said the PTI government has given more powers of legislation, executive and finances to the present LG Government compare to the past LG systems. He said people of KP have pinned high expectations from elected representatives of tehsils, villages and neighborhood councils to deliver for their betterment and bringing improvement in civic services.

The CM aide said that PTI would participate in the second phase of local bodies’ elections scheduled on January 16, 2021 in Swat, Upper Dir, Lower Dir, Upper Chiral, Lower Chitral, Shangla, Kurram, Orakzai, Abbottabad, Battagram, Kolai Pallas, Mansehra, Torghar, Upper Kohistan, Lower Kohistan, North Waziristan, and South Waziristan where preparations with more enthusiasm would achieve maximum seats with support of the masses.