By Fakhar Alam
PESHAWAR, Dec 05 (APP): Providing an inclusive political base to organized democratic system for an enhanced service delivery to people at the grassroots level, the local bodies councils empower the ordinary citizens to participate in decisions-making process by improving public services in their respective municipal areas and get an instant relief in trying times.
To form local bodies’ councils for a better health of democracy, speedy socioeconomic development, political culture and improved public services, the local bodies’ elections play vital role to include general public in decision-making affairs related to finance, administration and planning of projects at tehsil, local and neighborhood councils and resolve their problems such as waste management, pavement of streets, drainage system, street lights, and local disputes through their elected chairman, mayor and councilors at their doorsteps.
“Local bodies’ councils, which come into existence through a free and transparent election, serve as a political nursery for a future democratic setup in a country believed in supremacy of democracy,” said Abdul Rauf Khan, Chairman, Political Science Department, University of Peshawar while talking to APP.
“The main objective of the parliamentarians in a democratic Government is making legislation while local bodies’ representatives implement civic and public services projects on ground by ensuring its speedy implementation,” he said.
Dr Rauf said democracy can’t flourish unless establishment of a strong local bodies system with financial autonomy and holding of its elections on regular basis, adding people have pinned highest expectations from local bodies’ candidates of KP whose fate would be decided on December 19.
Keeping in view of the significance of the local bodies’ institutions and fulfilling the constitutional obligation, local bodies elections are being held in 17 districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where about 37,752 candidates are contesting for different seats including mayor, chairman, general councilor, youth, labour, farmers, minority and woman in the first phase to be held on December 19, 2021.
Provincial Election Commission officials told APP that 1,006 candidates had submitted nomination papers for seats of chairman and mayor of tehsil councils in Peshawar, Nowshera, Charsadda, Khyber, Mohmand, Mardan, Swabi, Kohat, Karak, Hangu, Bannu, Lakki Marwat, DI Khan, Tank, Haripur, Buner and Bajaur districts out of whom the nomination papers of 977 candidates approved, 29 rejected, 284 withdrawn and now only 689 are left in the electoral race.
Similarly, 19,282 candidates are contesting for the seats of general councilor in 20,648 village and neigbourhood councils in these districts. The nomination papers of 20,648 candidates approved, 1,140 rejected and 1,599 withdrawn after 21,788 nomination papers were submitted for general councilors.
For women seats, the nomination papers of 3,943 candidates approved, 277 rejected and 151 withdrawn against 4,220 submitted nomination papers and now 3,905 candidates are left in the election race. Out of the total 8,078 submitted nomination papers for the seats of farmers and labourers, as many as 7,513 candidates are flexing muscle after rejection of nomination papers of 419 candidates and withdrawal of 322 candidates and approval of 7,659.
As many as 6,804 candidates have filed nomination papers out of which 6161 accepted, 643 rejected and 180 withdrawn. Likewise, 328 candidates submitted nomination papers for the minority seats out of which nomination papers of 292 candidates accepted, 36 rejected, eight withdrawn and now 282 candidates are engaged in electoral battle heating up with each passing day.
The eyes are on Peshawar where political parties including PTI, PPP, JUIF, ANP and Jummat-e-Islami have fielded political heavyweights and business tycoons to clinch the coveted Metropolitan mayor seat.
PTI had awarded ticket to business tycoon, Muhammad Rizwan Bangash, who has a rich experience in social and public services including waste management and sanitation, and others municipal related projects. PTI has a large vote bank in Peshawar where mega devoloping projects completed by the ruling party especially the BRT, health and education reforms will benefit him.
JUIF has fielded Zubair Ali, son of former city district nazim Haji Ghulam Ali and son-in-law of JUI-F Chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman. He is eying on the religious votes bank of JUIF in Peshawar and his father past performance as District Nazim, Peshawar besides support of Qumi Watan Party.
Arbab Zarak Khan, who is fielded by PPP has a strong Baradari and can surprise many due to sufficient votes bank of his party in the Peshawar City. Sher Rehman, an ANP loyalist, is mainly concentrating on the nationalists votes and has started addressing public gatherings to woo voters.
Behrullah Khan Advocate has been fielded by Jumaat-e- Islami due to his long services and loyalty for the party. Political observers believe that fielding of separate candidates by JUIF and JI were likely to split religious votes that may benefit others candidates.
These political heavyweights are among 125 candidates who filed nomination papers for mayor and chairman seats of different tehsils out of which 49 candidates have withdrawn their nomination papers and now 76 are left in the election race.
Great hustle and bustle and political mobilization is being witnessed in Peshawar and Nowshera districts where candidates are participating in almost every activity from funeral to wedding and engagement to settling local disputes in a bid to muster voters support ahead of the D- Day.
The candidates have started even visiting local courts with litigants and public offices, who may be their potential voters, to help them sort out matters at earliest. Great enthusiasm are being witnessed among young voters in Nowshera district where 22 candidates are left in election race after withdrawal of 19 candidates out of the total 41 candidates who filed nomination papers.
“I am very excited to cast my first vote on Dec 19,” said Ehtisham Khan, a young voter and resident of Wapda Town Nowshera. I will vote for the candidate after reading his election manifesto and past service record,” he said. “My priority would be provision of clean drinking water, improving civic services and waste management if elected,” said Ashfaq Khan, PTI candidate for Tehsil Pabbi mayor seat while talking to APP.
ANP candidate, Ghafoor Khattak said that pavment of drainage system, restoration of streets lights and shifting of cattle market from Pabbi bazaar would be his priority areas if voted to power. In Charsadda, 32 candidates have started flexing muscle for mayor seats after withdrawal of 12 candidates out of total 44 submitted nomination papers.
In Khyber, 75 candidates filed nomination papers out of whom 22 withdrawn and 53 are contesting. As many as 35 candidates are left in electoral race after six candidates have withdrawn nomination papers against the total 41 nomination papers in Mohmand tribal district.
In Mardan, a total of 76 candidates filed nomination papers out of which 31 withdrawn and 45 are contesting election. In Swabi, 20 candidates withdrew their nomination papers out of total 50 submitted nomination papers and now 45 are left in election field.
In Kohat, 41 candidates are contesting election following withdrawal of 12 candidates against the total 53 submitted nomination papers. In Karak, as many as 43 candidates are left in election race following withdrawal of 20 candidates against total 63 submitted nomination papers.
In Hangu, 11 candidates have blowup election whistle after withdrawal of 4 candidates out of the total submitted papers of 15 while 46 candidates left in election race out of the total 67 nomination papers in Bannu following withdrawal of 21 candidates. A total of 72 candidates filed nomination papers in Lakki Marwat out of whom three candidates withdrawn and now 69 are left in election race.
Tough electoral battle is expected among 73 candidates in DI Khan after withdrawal of seven candidates out of the total 80 submitted nomination papers while 30 candidates are in run in Tank after withdrawal of four candidates out of total 34 filed nomination papers.
In Haripur, a total of 32 candidates filed nomination papers and 24 candidates are left in electoral battle after withdrawal of eight candidates while in Buner district, 45 candidates blew up whistle after withdrawal of 29 candidates against total submitted papers of 74. In Bajaur, a total of 31 candidates filed nomination papers out of which papers of 14 accepted and 17 withdrawn.
In Khyber Pakthunkhwa, 3,624 village and neigbourhood councils have been formed including 227 village and 130 neighbourhood councils in Peshawar, 195 village and 14 neigbourhood councils in Abbottabad, 120 village and seven neigbourhood in Bajaur, 111 village and 5 neigbourhood councils in Bannu, 79 village and 11 neigbourhood councils in Batgram, 105 village councils in Buner, 126 village and 20 neigbourhood councils in Charsadda, 39 village councils in Upper Chitral, 56 village and five neigbourhood in Lower Chitral, 150 village and 36 neigbourhood in DI Khan, 50 village and 12 neigbourhood in Hangu, 155 village and 25 neighbourhood in Haripur, 57 village and 5 neighbourhood in Karak, 130 village and 17 neigbourhood councils in Khyber, 85 village and 23 neigbourhood councils in Kohat, 62 village and one neigbourhood council in Upper Kohistan, 47 village councils in Lower Kohistan, 52 village Kolai Palas, 67 village and 14 neighboorhood councils in Kurram, 94 village and seven neigbourhood councils in Lakki Marwat, 182 village and 16 neigbourhood councils in Lower Dir, 67 village and 15 neigbourhood councils in Malakanad, 174 village and 20 neighbourhood in Manshera, 178 village and 73 neigbourhood in Mardan, 58 village and seven neighbourhood in Mohmand, 75 village and six neigbourhood in North Waziristan, 129 village and 24 neigbourhood in Nowshera, 42 village and four neighourhood in Orakzai, 105 village in Shangla, 82 village and 15 negibourhood in South Waziristan, 133 village and 27 neigbourhood in Swabi, 170 village and 44 neigbbourhood in Swat, 39 village and one neigbhourhood in Torghar and 177 village and five neigbourhood councils in Upper Dir.
Election Commission has assigned the powers of the Ist Class Magistrates to all returning officers under Local Bodies Election Act 2017 and issued code of conduct for all the stakeholders including media, Govt officials and public representatives directing for strict implementation imperative for free, fair and transparent elections. The concerned officials have been directed to make CCTV cameras at all polling stations functional and install new one in case of its non availability to ensure transparent and free election.
Kamran Bangash, Provincial Minister for Higher Education told APP that KP Government was extending full support to Election Commission of Pakistan for holding of free, fair and transparent elections.
He said KP local bodies system was comprehensive with maximum powers to its elected representatives to address problems of people at grassroots level. The Minister said effective security arrangements would be put in place for ensuring safe atmosphere to voters on polling day.