The Supreme Court has rightly urged all provincial governments to hold local body elections no later than June. Should this be regarded as a move by the judiciary to encroach on the executive’s territory, the detractors must bear in mind that the issue is no different from the plethora of crises that have fallen victim to the government’s obfuscation. The apex court directed the Chief Secretaries of the provinces to deliberate on the nitty-gritty of the matter with their respective governments as a preparation to the elections.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry’s observation that such elections become a source of solving peoples’ problems at a local level is beyond doubt. Of course, the main purpose of the local elections is to reach out to people at the grassroots level specifically meant for bridging the extraordinary chasm prevailing between them and the officialdom. It is hoped that matters relating to rigging, display of arms, wasteful expenditure on part of the candidates and politically motivated violence would be addressed. But of course the main snag that still remains is that the voters’ list has yet to be completed through a transparent process scrutinised by upright officials. The kind of staff that is given the duty of holding elections itself is a serious source of concern since recently a media report alleging certain corrupt elements within the Election Commission of fraud involving illegal transfer of votes from one province to the other, has been circulating. There should be hardly any doubt that until and unless the elections are transparent, the elections would become an exercise in futility. In fact they would bring criminals and lawbreakers to power. So far as local body elections are concerned, there is little justification for heaping blame on the federal government, especially given attorney general’s statement that it was now the provinces’ domain after the passage of the 18th amendment. If the electoral lists were not authentic and hence constituted a roadblock in the way of local elections, did any province raise a hue and cry?

Clearly, the issue would have gone unnoticed if had not caught the attention of the Supreme Court. Not surprisingly, the provinces are invariably quick to swing into action whenever they have to conduct by-elections because that is where their political survival is involved. It is high time the provinces put their house in order, lest they should be seen as disregarding the 18th amendment bill and also the purpose behind devolution of power.