Ever since the local government’s term expired in 2020, the provincial governments have been expressing reservations about holding elections for a replacement. Building upon this, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s new statement further hints at the third tier of government being on the back burner. The provincial government must do well to remember that devolving powers is its constitutional duty and the federal government must reiterate the integral value of local governments and immediately expedite this in all provinces.
Already, the Sindh government has postponed the local elections by as much as a year citing the need to fix the ‘fraudulent’ 2017 census as the main reason behind the delay. MQM also has reservations against the 2017 census, but has presented a solution in this regard—hold local elections on the basis of the 1998 census. The constitution requires for each province to replace their local governments within 120 days of the expiry of their term but we have yet to see any movement on this front in any of the provinces.
For the chairman of one of the biggest political parties in the country to say that local government elections are simply not a priority for Karachi as there are bigger fish to fry is problematic. It alludes to the belief that the third tier of governance is insignificant entirely. It also gives us a peak into the apathetic general perception that higher political bodies have of lower levels of governance. In reality, local bodies bridge the gap between the provincial governments and the masses and aid the implementation of policies, laws and solutions to problems. In fact, they are the ones who highlight the crippling issues of various cities in the first place.
To disregard them completely like this is irresponsible and must be revisited. If Karachi had a functional local government in place, many of its exigent problems might just have been resolved by now. This must be realised and any notions that promote dangerous indifference to local governance must be called out and corrected.