Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf has promised to hold local bodies’ elections within 90 days on the basis of bio-metrics - introducing electronic voting system - in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The PTI manifesto also promises local bodies elections within ninety days of the general elections. Speaking on floor of the house after taking oath as member national assembly on June 19, Chairman Imran khan reiterated the party position and said the PTI government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will hold local government elections on the bases of bio-metrics within a period of ninety days.
The PTI manifesto already contained detailed policy guidelines - ‘PTI’s Rural Governance Vision to Empower Local Community’- with catchy slogans like “Give back power where it belongs - the Community.”
As Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Local Government Inayatullah Khan was not available, Truth Tracker contacted PTI leader and member of the KP assembly, Mahmood Jan, for comments.
Jan said the provincial chapter of Tehreek Insaaf has completed its homework for local bodies elections. “Even documents have been prepared and shared with the coalition partners - Jamaat-i-Islam (JI) and Qaumi Watan Party (QW) - and consensus has been already created for legislation in provincial parliament,” Jan tells TT.
“I am sure the legislation will be done immediately after Eid-ul-Fitr,” says Jan confidently.
According to Jan, PTI government in KP is in the process of negotiation and convincing the Elections Commission of Pakistan to put in place electronic voting machines for holding free and transparent elections.
“But, personally, I believe there are only 50% chances of ECP installing biometrics machines at polling stations,” says Jan.
In 2001, the former President Gen Pervez Musharraf passed a Local Government Ordinance and elections for local bodies were held subsequently in year 2001 and then in 2005 under the same regulations. The new law taking maximum powers from the district bureaucracy; empowered the elected members of union councils, tehsils and district councils to govern at local levels.
Following the passage of 18th Constitutional Amendment on April 8, 2010, local bodies became a provincial subject. However, since the passage of the amendment, none of the provincial governments held local bodies elections.
In December 2012, Awami National Party led government in KP restored the old system of local bodies; again empowering local bureaucracy by reviving the executive magistracy and commissionerate systems at district and divisional levels.
Former information Minister and leader of Awami National Party (ANP) Mian Iftikhar Hussian talking to TT clarified that ANP-led government was having serious reservations about the Musharraf local government system.
“Under the Musharraf formula the federal and district tiers of governments were directly connected [...] but the provincial governments were missing or having little role in local governments,” says the former minister.
According to Hussian, the ANP-led coalition government was ready to hold election in KP earlier than other provinces, however, postponed the decision on the desire of the President of Pakistan and former the Prime Minister. Both the president an prime minister then wanted to hold local government elections in the country on the same date, he said.
“Despite security problems we were ready for local government elections but postponed the decision for the sake of unity,” Iftikhar tells TT.
PTI leader Imran Khan always remained at the forefront in criticizing the provincial governments of not holding local bodies election. He was accusing the ruling parties of being reluctant to devolve powers to grassroots levels by holding local government elections.
Khan keeps on promising that, once in power, PTI will hold local bodies elections within 90 days after general elections.
KP Advocate General, in response to the Supreme Court order of finalizing the legislation by August 15 and holding local bodies elections in September this year, assured the court of completing the legislation with in due time. He told the court that KP government has already initiated the process of legislation and will finish it soon.
On July 23, Supreme court of Pakistan directed to all provincial governments to finalize the legislation by August 15 to hold local bodies elections in September.
A former nazim of Saidu Union Council Swat Khalid Mehmood seemed skeptical of PTI capability to holding local bodies elections within ninety days.
If PTI wanted to hold local bodies elections according to its manifesto, then it needs a new legislation to be passed from the provincial assembly, he said.
“Legislation is a lengthy process and I see no movement on the ground [...] to me the party is clueless without any homework on the issue,” he said.
Mehmood is also not sure of introducing electronic voting machines in local government elections and said the low literacy rate in the province will be a big hurdle in introducing biometrics.
According to the promise, the PTI government will have to hold local government’s elections in KP before August 31 as Chief Minister Khattak took oath on May 31 and first 90 days of the PTI’s provincial government would be completed on August 30.
“ECP has already purchased the biometrics machines for upcoming local bodies elections,” CEC Mr Ibrahim said while talking to local media personnel in Lahore. “We (ECP) are even ready to hold by-elections through electronic voting system,” local media quoted Ibrahim as saying.
Truth tracker believes a training for the elections staff and an awareness campaign would be required to educate the masses on the use of bio-metrics and electronic voting machines if this promise has to be fulfilled in this true spirit.If the PTI holds elections in KP before August 31, the promise would be taken as fulfilled otherwise it would stand broken. Yet, fulfillment has not started.