The prevalent politics of vested interests and pettiness has come in the way of yet another constitutional duty. 8 months after coming to power, provincial governments of Punjab, Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa have failed to conduct Local Government (LG) polls. Often criticized as the most incompetent and dysfunctional province, Balochistan remains the only one to have completed the exercise, and it has done it rather well. Elsewhere, it’s the same old story: self-proclaimed guardians of democracy unwilling to follow constitutional obligations, and purposefully politicizing issues to delay further.

The reluctance towards holding LG elections is unfortunate, but not entirely surprising. The political leadership of Pakistan believes in democracy as long as it paves the way to power. But, as far as democratic principles and practices are concerned, they can easily be ignored at will. Take Punjab for example. CM Shahbaz Sharif’s government tried to conduct polls on non-party basis in direct contradiction of the law.  Look at Sindh. MQM and PPP cannot even agree on fair delimitation of constituencies. The leadership in KPK is still waiting for the technology that will ensure no rigging takes place.  And since our worthy politicians are incapable of resolving matters on their own, this issue too has ended up in the courts. The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has informed the Supreme Court (SC) of its inability to carry out delimitations as directed by the Lahore High Court (LHC). Simply put, LG polls appear no closer than they were when the same leaders were making promises of dissolution of power to grassroots level during their election campaigns.

Local governments are an integral part of functioning democracies around the world. They have proven far more efficient in managing schools, hospitals, roads and other similar areas of governance. They will also help curb rampant corruption in development funds. But, all this has no place on the priority list of those in power. They don’t just want the biggest piece of the pie, they want the whole thing.