LAHORE - The upcoming local government elections in Punjab appear to be non-party only in words as almost all major political parties are going to field their candidates impinging upon the very sprit of the party-less polls.
The rudimentary idea of keeping the LB polls above involvement of the political parties is to bring up a representation at the grassroots level, which serves the electorate neutrally, regardless of political liking and disliking, but in the common interest of all. This also aims at providing full room for the assembly members to perform their original and most important function of legislation on the floor of the house and lets the LGs do the duty of public service, utilising development funds which in the past years had touched the allocation of up to Rs 130 billion only in Punjab.
The upcoming LG polls are divided into non-party and party-based, respectively, between Punjab and Balochistan, and Sindh and KPK. In Sindh and KPK, things would not be much difficult and complicated, but the actual test of the Election Commission of Pakistan is going to be Punjab where ensuring political detachment of the candidates would be the principal yardstick to measure how the elections are held in a free, fair and transparent manner. And cosmetic non-party LG polls raise many questions, particularly after fingers have been raised to the transparency of the May elections which PTI and PPP term massively rigged.
PPP and PTI are ruling Sindh and KPK, respectively, where party-based elections are taking place. As such there is a little possibility that these two provinces would follow any other procedure and pattern.
Punjab has announced December 7 for holding the elections (subject to the timely printing of ballot papers) and preparations for the D-day have begun by all parties overtly and covertly. Political stakes of all are much high in Punjab which is the home to 65 percent population of the country. It is gathered from various sources and reports that political parties, in pursuance of the goal to firm up and gain ground in Punjab, are adopting the same mode they do for the general elections such as inviting applications for candidature, seeking funds for the party and finalising contestants after a thorough consideration and satisfaction that the candidates will remain loyal and follow the party policy.
It is also being learnt that the parties would strive to get for their candidates a common election symbol so that the electorate could easily identify them. Although in a varying degree, the parties have also activated their legislators and stalwarts to find out suitable persons and recommend them for candidature while their office bearers are also poised to campaign for the candidates the party leadership will finalise. Not only that but also process of political alliances, seat adjustments and understanding has also kicked off, though at an incipient stage.
In the city, the process of inviting applications by the ruling party has begun. In order to draw attention of the party leaders, banners are visible at various places by the aspirants of tickets.
It is also leant through sources that opposition parties are seriously pondering over moving the Election Commission to prevent the PML-N government from doling out development funds to its legislators, which the former believe would be used to woo the voters. The opposition may also seek an order from the ECP against the use of office machinery in the upcoming elections.
The non-party based elections which are above the application of defection clause of the Constitution can provide an opportunity to a party to gain strength of councillors to elect the persons of its liking as mayors, chairmen, etc. It is also learnt that the opposition parties are devising a strategy to check the ruling party from taking advantage on this count. As such, the upcoming LG polls in Punjab are likely to be a political battle between the ruling and opposition parties, which is the basic feature of the party-based polls.