PESHAWAR                   -                  Situation arising out of the coronavirus epi­demic and the subsequent relief operations throughout the country have highlighted the need for a local government system.

Under the LG system, the nazims and coun­cillors of district, town and union councils used to assist people at the doorstep. Many people still approach the former public rep­resentatives of local governments and par­liamentarians in the constituencies for relief funds nowadays.

A union council nazim in Peshawar city, Mu­hammad Amjad, told this scribe that people were coming to his house for the relief fund under the Ehsaas Programme, but that he had nothing to do with it now.

“People even get angry when I tell them that I am no more helpful to them for any relief funds because out tenure has already ended several months ago,” he added.

According to the Elections Act-2017, fresh polls need to be held within 120 days after the lapse of local bodies’ tenure. However, de­spite this rule, the provincial government has failed to hold the elections even after the local governments’ tenure had lapsed about eight months ago.

Some experts believe that the LG repre­sentatives could have effectively play their role in the ongoing situation and relief activi­ties as they work at the grassroots, a job that the provincial governments and bureaucracy may not be able to do well.

Prof Dr Zahid Anwar, former chairman of Po­litical Science Department at University of Pe­shawar, told The Nation that indeed all gov­ernment and institutions of the country are currently on one page and battling coronavirus.

“The local government system is like a nurs­ery for democracy and local government rep­resentatives could better perform in the on­going situation, particularly the distribution of relief funds now,” said Prof Anwar, who now serves as Director of China Study Cen­tre at the campus. Some say that former lo­cal government representatives should be in­volved in the ongoing relief process as they can better work at the grassroots level.

Chief Minister’s Special Assistant on Local Governments, Kamran Bangash, told The Na­tion that the main reason behind delay in the local government elections was the amend­ments needed for the fresh elections and FATA merger.

He claimed that preparations of LG Depart­ment to hold LG elections were even termed satisfactory by Election Commission of Paki­stan. “We’ve already done massive amend­ments during the last tenure of LGs. After amendments, we were right on track to go for delimitation rules as instructed by the Elec­tion Commission. But there were improve­ments proposed in the previous system, which needed amendments and other for­mal procedures,” he added.

He said that the LG setup in erstwhile Fata had to establish 702 village and neighbour­hood councils from scratch.

To a question if the government should in­volve the former LG representatives in the distribution of Ehsaas Program relief funds to ensure impartiality, instead of the commit­tees being formed, he said: “People had been criticising ex-LG representatives too for their nepotism and favouritism.”