LAHORE - The controversy over election of heads of Local Bodies has taken an interesting turn after the Sindh High Court decision declaring their upcoming election through show of hands null and void.

The Opposition parties in Sindh had challenged an amendment in the Local Government law approved by the Sindh Assembly whereby the election of Mayors, Deputy Mayors and other representatives was to be held through show of hands instead of the secret ballot.

In Punjab, the Opposition parties including the PPP and the PTI have also challenged in Lahore High Court a similar amendment in the Local Government law, but the decision is still awaited.

The sitting governments in Punjab and Sindh want to hold this election through show of hands but their respective Opposition wants the same to be held through secret ballot. In Balochistan, the same election took place last year also through show of hands.

Interestingly, the KPK government of PTI held these elections through show of hands in the preceding year, but in Punjab the same party is opposed to this method for political reasons. Likewise, the PPP government in Sindh wants this election to take place through show of hands but its provincial chapter here in Punjab is one of the Opposition parties which have moved Lahore High court against the recent amendments in the Local Government law by which the election of Local Bodies heads is to be held through show of hands.

The controversy over method of election has its roots in country’s “dirty politics” where votes are bought and the sitting governments change loyalties of elected persons either through arms twisting or by showering favours on them. The sale and purchase of political loyalties is the hallmark of our politics.

The Opposition parties in Punjab and Sindh are in favour of secret ballot to prevent their Councillors from switching loyalties to the ruling party after getting favours.

On the other hand, the show of hands method suits the sitting governments in both the provinces as they can manoeuver victory of their candidates through coercion and other means. If it has to be a secret ballot they won’t be able to know whether those who promised to vote for their nominees after receiving benefits had actually voted for them or not.

A show of hands method suits the PPP and the PTI in the provinces where they are in the government and not in the province where they are in the Opposition.

The Punjab government also replaced the secret ballot with show of hands because it suits its candidates.

The Nation contacted leaders of the PPP and PTI to know why they preferred one rule in the province they were in power and disliked the same rule in another province where they were in the Opposition.

PTI’s Ishaq Khaqwani admitted that as a matter of principle it was not right to practice different set of rules in one province and another in the other province. Nonetheless, he justified his party’s decision to challenge the show of hands method in the court, stating, that it was only in Punjab where bureaucracy was using coercive means to change loyalties of Councillors belonging to opposition parties.

He claimed that not a single complaint of coercion against KP bureaucracy was received at the time of election there.

Mian Manzoor Wattoo of PPP was not available for his party’s version.