The pace of development in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is likely to remain sluggish as the KP-government is reluctant to hold Local Body Elections and utilise the Annual Development Funds of Rs 46 billion allocated for districts to be spent by local government.
These funds are to be spent through the local governments but the delay in holding the LG election has put a question mark on the future of these funds.
The ruling party Pakistan Tehreek e Insaf (PTI) after missing the constitutional deadline is still reluctant to conduct local government elections in provinces as apparently it faces many challenges.
The PTI has already missed the constitutional deadline for holding the LG elections within 120 days. As section-219 (4) of the Elections Act 2017 states that the fresh elections for new local government representatives must be conducted within 120 days after the expiry of the previous term.
The previous local governments completed their term on August 28 and the government is yet to fulfil its responsibility by holding the LG elections on time.
On other hand, Khyber Pakhtunkhewa laws related to Local Government passed by provincial assembly have been challenged by the opposition in Peshawar High Court. However, the prime minister’s political aides are confident to get the issue mutually resolved by engaging the opposition parties in fruitful talks.
The opposition in KP Assembly has also raised finger over the amendment in Local Government Act 2013 as unlike the 2015 local bodies, the new setup will have two tiers of government (Tehsil/Town Councils and the Village/Neighbourhood Councils) as the district council has been revoked.
However, sources in the ECP told us that the elections are unlikely to be held soon due to the lengthy delimitation process and besides this the government is using delaying tactics fearing defeat in elections.
The sources further said that the ruling party had failed to deliver what it had promised with the people of Pakistan and it was one of the reasons that they were dragging their feet from holding the LG elections. The sources revealed that if the ruling party dared to hold LG elections then they would surely lose the real mandate and it would greatly affect their dominance on other parties in KP and Punjab.
The sources further revealed that ECP has held several meetings with the provinces to expedite the election process as soon as possible; adding that ECP will not be able to hold LG elections due to alleged delaying tactics of the incumbent government.
The sources privy to the KP-government said that district administration will utilise LG funds in the absence of local bodies but the question arise, how, as district administration or DC’s cannot spent these funds as it is against the LG rules.
According to LG officials the revoking of district council was to transfer the power to the lowest level and make the common masses more powerful and politically aware.
Meanwhile, the government is also facing issues with classifying the tehsil councils into urban and rural categories. Furthermore, financial constraints of the government, at both provincial and federal levels, are also said to be among the factors forcing the delay.
Unlike the 2015 local bodies, in which the local government system had three tiers, the coming setup will be comprise of two tiers of government (Tehsil/Town Councils and the Village/Neighborhood Councils). The KP government drastically amended the KP Local Government Act 2013 and the district tier, which was the most powerful, was abolished.
The 35 districts of KP, including the merged tribal districts comprise 4,203 village/neighbourhood councils.
The officials of Local government are of view that the purpose of revoking the district tier was to delegate powers to lower levels in an actual sense, but we have to wait for the time and see will the new system work or not. For now it appears that the administrative setup at the tehsil level is not as strong as the one operating at the district level.