Pakistan’s political leadership has been supremely lethargic when it comes to holding Local Government (LG) polls – and this statement hold only if we give them the benefit of the doubt. In reality a more accurate description is that they have been disruptive; provincial governments in Punjab and Sindh have positively used every technical loophole, delaying tactic and diversion method in the book and have smattered it all with a healthy dose of belligerence when it came to holding the poll. It is undeniable that without the ever-present watch of the Supreme Court – which has consistently whipped MPs in line and has forced the institutions to work through direct orders and imposed deadlines – the LG polls would not have been held at all in this electoral term. While this sort of judicial activism is welcome and highly appreciated, the pressure occasionally needs to let up. The government may have lost all credibility by crying wolf one too many a time, but right now it does need time; the schedule released by the ECP for the Islamabad LG poll – which will commence on July 25 – is too hurried. Most importantly, the parliament is still to pass a local body law which details the duties and powers of the office bearers for the capital region; without this important piece of legislation the election will only lead to pandemonium.

Avoiding undue delay in the polls is important but so is a well-drafted and reasonably thought out local government law. Political parties have been unanimous in criticising the schedule, arguing they have little time to prepare or to orient their campaigns according to the powers or duties of the post they are campaigning for. Although their threats of legal action are unrealistic, they do serve as a barometer of their opinions. Where the election deadlines have been pushed back several times for invented problems, it can be pushed back again for a real issue; especially if it gives us the advantage of a thoroughly vetted LG law for Islamabad. Where imposed deadlines have been instrumental in forcing an unwilling government to comply, too much pressure invites criticism and claims of judicial over-activism – the kind witnessed in Chaudary Iftikhar’s era – all of which leads to friction between institutions. The apex court has done commendable work so far, now it must find a negotiated solution to this conundrum that is acceptable to all stakeholders.