LAHORE - The local government elections are not in sight, as Punjab government has failed to announce a precise date for initiating the election process as required under the Punjab Local Government (Amendment) Act, 2010. The Punjab Assembly passed the said law on February 4 this year to make provision for appointment of administrators in place of nazims; while one of its clauses made it mandatory for the government to announce a precise date for the elections within six months of the law coming into force. The stipulated period expired in August this year, but the government neither announced any such date nor made any legislation either through the assembly or in the form of an ordinance to secure its legal position. Talking to The Nation on Friday, Punjab Law Minister Rana Sana Ullah admitted this lapse on part of the government, but sought excuse for this negligence in the extraordinary situation created by raging floods in the country. He said government had planned to call Punjab Assembly session last month (in August) just for one day to amend the local government law; but in view of the hectic engagements of the chief minister, ministers and assembly members in the flood-hit areas, it could not be convened. He, however, did not agree with the opinion that government had committed any illegality by not announcing the date for elections within the stipulated period. He cited another provision of the law, according to which, no provision or clause of any law could become void if any of its provisions was not implemented due to some reason. The minister said that local elections would now be held some time next year. Meanwhile, it has been learnt that in view of the massive destruction caused by the furious floods, and governments inability to evolve consensus over a uniform system of local governments in the four provinces, it would not be possible to hold the elections even in March next year, as the government had planned earlier, though without making any formal announcement in this regard. In Punjab, the floods have wreaked havoc in seven districts, and the situation is no better in other provinces as well. A local government official told this scribe that apart from the obstacle of floods which have destroyed the basic infrastructure in many places across the country, another big hurdle in the way of holding local elections was the disagreement between the Centre and the provinces over contours of the new system. Since appointment of administrators in place of nazims in October last year, the government is groping around in the dark for finding a basic framework within which the new system would work, he observed. According to him, the government had not so far been able even to address some basic questions regarding the new system. Should there be a uniform system of local governments in all the provinces or should each province have its own arrangement? Whether the elections should be held on party basis or should they be non-party based? Should we revert back to the previous system of Municipal Corporations or continue with the present one; or should it be an amalgamation of the two? In Sindh, MQM wants to retain the existing system, while PPP wants restoration of the previous one. These are the questions yet to be addressed by the government, the official further commented on the situation. When this scribe talked to Provincial Election Commissioner, Akhtar Hussain Sabir about preparedness of the Commission to hold local polls, he maintained that Election Commission could make the necessary arrangements in two months if the government was satisfied that environment was conducive to the elections. We require this much time only to call tenders for procurement of stationary and the printing material. The rest is done by the federal and provincial governments, as they are to make all other arrangements to facilitate the Commission staff, he further told this correspondent.