While speaking to Sindh PPP ministers at Karachi on Sunday, President Zardari asked leaders of his party to prepare for the coming general elections, as well as the local body elections. However, Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar said that the President had not asked the provincial government to hold local body elections, though he was speaking in the context of the PPP-MQM negotiations on the province’s future local body structure, which had apparently broken down. The Supreme Court has ordered the holding of local body polls as soon as possible. Since the end of the term of the local councils, elections have not been held, with the subject being devolved to the provinces since, and all wish to put in place a new system to replace the one introduced by the Musharraf regime.

However, there should be no thought of delaying the general election due next March. It is noteworthy that Pir Pagaro, while talking to the press after meeting former Prime Minister Gilani, said that he did not see general elections taking place. It should be remembered that his Functional League is in alliance with the PPP, and may well represent knowledge of what is going on. At one level, a desire to avoid elections makes sense for the government, for the campaign would see a lot of embarrassing questions being asked about various aspects of governance, notably about inflation, loadshedding, the law and order, its failure to tackle the situation arising out of the floods properly.

Local body elections are necessary, as they are the nurseries of democracy. However, holding them should not become an excuse for postponing the general elections to the federal and provincial legislatures. Federal and provincial governments are the fully matured fruit of democracy. Care for the nurseries should not preclude the fully grown plant. While there can be no excuse for missing elections, using local body polls as an excuse is particularly invidious.