First phase of local government elections focused on 17 districts, primarily in southern Punjab
The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) on Wednesday announced that it will conduct the first phase of local government elections in Punjab on May 29.
Following a meeting of the ECP chaired by Chief Election Commissioner Sikandar Sultan Raja, the forum said that the first phase of local body elections in Pakistan’s most populous province would cover 17 districts—Dera Ghazi Khan, Rajanpur, Muzaffargarh, Layyah, Khanewal, Vehari, Bahawalpur, Sahiwal, Pakpattan, Toba Tek Singh, Khushab, Sialkot, Gujarat, Hafizabad, Mandi Bahauddin, Jhelum and Attock.
The ECP has also directed voters to contest the delimitation of their particular seats by Feb. 25 before the relevant authorities, adding that any objections would be decided upon by March 12. Under the Election Act, 2017 and the Punjab Local Government Ordinance, 2021, delimitation committees established the boundaries of neighborhood and village councils, resulting in the formation of at least 2,544 neighborhood councils and 3,128 village councils.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)-led Punjab government had dissolved the local bodies constituted under the Punjab Local Government Act, 2013, in May 2019, shortly after coming into power. At the time, government officials had claimed it would “soon” be replaced by a “more devolved” system that would empower local bodies and allow them to address the issues of their constituents.
The dismissed representatives had then approached the Supreme Court against the decision, with the apex court issuing a short order in March last year declaring Section 3 of the Punjab Local Government Act, 2019 unconstitutional and restoring the local governments. Despite their term set to expire in December 2021, the restored governments were restored in October, with officials complaining that their offices had been stripped bare and they had no access to any development funds for their constituencies.
The Punjab local government elections are expected to be hotly contested between the PTI, the Pakistan Peoples Party and the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz). There are also concerns of the rightwing Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan playing the role of spoiler.