The Elections Act, 2017 was a law passed to ensure the integrity of elections and strengthen the democratic process of Pakistan. According to it, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) shall hold elections to the local governments within one hundred and twenty days of the expiry of the term of the local governments of a province. However, despite the laws put in place, nearly every government has had an unfortunate tendency to unnecessarily delay local body polls to an unacceptable degree.

It seems that this year again, local body polls will not be on time for most of the country. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa seems to be on the right track—the ECP has issued the revised schedule for the first phase of local body elections in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to implement the order of the Peshawar High Court to hold the village and neighbourhood council elections on a party basis, with polling to take place on December 19 as scheduled.

However the same cannot be said for Sindh, whose government announced that the next local government elections in the province will take place after another four to five months, which is extremely off schedule considering the local governments in Sindh had expired on August 30, 2020. Balochistan also aims to postpone its local government elections to 2022.

The reason behind the hesitance to hold these elections could be organisational or worse, a fear of losing power. Delimitations and change of districts can alter demographics. However, no provincial government can keep using the excuse of delimitation to delay the democratic process and deprive people of their political rights.

It is good that this time the ECP did not accept requests for extension and issued a final deadline of two weeks to the Sindh government to provide prerequisites for holding local government elections in the province. The authority has also castigated the federal government for its inability to conduct the elections in Islamabad. This is an issue that cuts across party lines. But the non-serious approach to a process fundamental for democracy cannot continue.