The delay in local bodies elections is not without consequences. The setup has a critical function to perform in a representative democracy. Local governments (LG) ensure grassroots penetration of power, decision-making and resources, which is necessary to successfully manage affairs at the district, tehsil and village levels. As per law, at least 30 percent of the provincial development budget is to be handed over to local government to be utilised for various schemes, continuing and new.

For the province of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP), that brings the number to Rs 46bn, out of which only Rs 3bn were released. The KP finance minister has defended this decision by pointing out that the tenure of local government councils has expired, and elections delayed till April 2021. Perhaps it is important to point out here that despite several reminders by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP), the provincial governments including that of KP failed to cooperate with the ECP and complete preparations for holding timely LG elections. As per the law, they were supposed to have taken place within 120 days of the expiry of tenure of previous LG. Yet again, power that should reside in the hands of peoples’ elected representatives, has been returned to bureaucrats, who are to exercise it directly with the blessing of Peshawar.

Despite excellent examples to learn from across the world, the Pakistani political elite refuses to relinquish control and devolve power to local level. The colonial mindset of ruling through the bureaucracy continues to prevail. The courts should not have to intervene each time to make politicians fulfil their constitutional duties. The sorry state of affairs brought on by decades of poor governance and political expediency should finally prompt change without which the system is bound to underperform and even fail. The billions in funds that will either remain unspent or be spent by bureaucrats are critical for the impoverished masses of the province. Someone should be held accountable for this grave injustice.