- Legal problems and concerns of allies need to be addressed first
PM Imran Khan has directed Chief Minister Punjab Usman Buzdar to hold Local Government (LG) polls as soon as possible, at least at the village level in the first phase. Before that can happen, some legal issues need to be addressed. The 2018 census results have not been officially published after the MQM-P and PPP rejected the results; meaning that the constitutional requirement to delimit constituencies before LG polls can be held cannot be fulfilled. Provinces, particularly KP, have been dragging their feet on the matter and the allotted four month deadline within which fresh LG elections are to be held in all provinces after expiry of local bodies, has lapsed.
Then there are concerns of PTI’s allies as well. The government has not forced LG polls in Sindh just yet because the MQM-P is a crucial ally in the center and ignoring their rejection of the census result would alienate them. A major ally in Punjab, PML-Q also wants some amendments to be made to the new local government law passed by the provincial assembly before polls are held. One of the flaws the party has highlighted is the already significantly high number of 4,000-plus union councils being increased to 24,000-plus village councils/panchayats. Their contention is that this would increase administrative expenses by over six times. Short of these changes, the PML-Q has threatened to boycott any LG polls. It would suit the PTI well to address these legitimate concerns of its allies as they are already disgruntled and on edge over various unfulfilled promises that PM Imran Khan has now himself had to personally step in and resolve, in both the provinces his party is in power; KP and Punjab.
It is another matter whether or not the PTI has the numbers in terms of popularity and candidates to successfully contest LG polls, but the elections need to take place immediately. PM Imran Khan believes local governments can ‘resolve people’s problems at the grassroots level’. That might be the case but will only be possible if LG polls are held at all levels, from district administration to the tehsil and union levels as well.