AFTER a lengthy gap of 17 years, local government elections were held in 42 of the country’s 43 cantonment areas on Saturday.
Countrywide the process was mostly smooth, though there were reports of low turnout in some areas. While official results are due on Tuesday, as per unofficial tallies candidates allied to the PML-N prevailed in Punjab, whereas those backed by the PTI appeared to lead in KP constituencies. In Sindh, the MQM looked to be in the lead and in Balochistan, independent candidates reportedly bagged the majority of seats.
These results seem to mirror the outcome of the 2013 general elections.
Take a look: Local govt polls conclude in cantonments, PML-N in the lead]1
Let us hope this becomes a standard exercise and residents of cantonment areas don’t have to wait another 17 years to elect their representatives.
There are a number of civilians who reside in cantonments across Pakistan, and like their counterparts in civilian-run areas they also face a variety of civic issues.
Hence, it is important that civilians living in military-administered areas have a voice so that they can raise these issues.
As far as the composition of the cantonment boards is concerned, half of the members are elected civilians, while the other half consists of nominated members, who can be either civilians or military men.
The station commander is president of the body and enjoys veto power. We hope that the elected civilians have an actual say in the way cantonment boards are run and are not treated as mere token members.
As we have said before, the nature of garrison areas has changed and many of them are now very much part of the urban environment, with large civilian populations, hence the input of civilians in their administration is as important as of those in uniform.
With the holding of the cantonment polls, all eyes will now naturally be on the provinces and Islamabad to see if they can follow through on promises to hold local government elections.
The provincial governments — apart from Balochistan, which has already held the polls — have dithered considerably on conducting this exercise, and were it not for the Supreme Court’s constant pressure in this matter, there would perhaps be no momentum whatsoever where holding of the polls is concerned.
The apex court has given Sindh, Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa till September to hold the polls. The negative consequences of not holding regular LG polls have been enumerated countless times.
Hence it is hoped that the elections are held smoothly in the remaining three provinces and Islamabad on a party basis without delay and that this essential democratic exercise becomes a routine matter and is no longer considered a novelty.
Published in Dawn, April 27th, 2015
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