The tussle for power in Punjab left the country outraged and confused about what the turn of events meant for democracy. Arguing that political actors and institutions are further failing to uphold its essence, opposition parties staged fierce protests against the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) decision to delay the second phase of the local government elections in Sindh in light of heavy bouts of rainfall. The election is now scheduled to take place on August 18.

Jamaat-i-Islami, Tehreek-i-Labbaik, the Sindh United Party and the Grand Democratic Alliance organised protests and sit-ins against what they believe is a conspiracy. Delays in elections are being viewed as an attempt to retain power and protection from rainfall is being seen as a façade only. Whether there is truth in this statement is up for debate, considering that the Sindh government has claimed that it too is against the delay and the decision was taken by the ECP alone. What remains to be true however is that holding local government elections is a constitutional duty that is currently not being taken as seriously as it should.

Local governments are vital for day-to-day operations and they bridge the gap between provincial governments and the people. Problems like flooding, power outages, extreme poverty and disease outbreaks are often addressed by these local bodies and with prolonged delays, there is a greater chance that the public will be completely alienated. If this was a one-off incident, then exceptions could be made but the fact that local body elections are almost always delayed dampens the voters’ confidence in the democratic process and this is something we cannot afford after the proceedings in Punjab.

What remains to be important is that the local body elections are carried out, on the date stated by the ECP and without any more problems. Furthermore, bodies like the ECP must reconsider their approach as taking political parties into confidence about delays should have been the least that could have been done. Regardless, all focus must now be on completing the second phase of the local elections as well as holding the by-election for NA-245.