PESHAWAR - Speakers at a seminar on “Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Local Government Act 2013” have demanded early Local Bodies elections to be held on party basis across the province and urged to ensure transparency in electoral process by bringing electoral reforms.

The seminar was organised by the Citizens Rights’ and Sustainable Development (CRSD), a non-governmental organisation (NGO) in collaboration with the Strengthening Participatory Programme and other relevant stakeholders here on Wednesday at press club. he Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Minister for Local Government and Rural Development Inayatullah Khan was the chief guest on the occasion.

Notables among the speakers included PML-N KPK General Secretary Shaheen Habibullah, Fata Coordination Council Chairman Engineer Tour Gul, President National Party (NP) Mukhtar Bacha, SPO representative Arshad Haroon. While members of the civil society, members of the legislative bodies, experts, and women rights’ organisations also participated in the seminar.

The participants were of the view that existing Khyber Pakhtunkhwa LG Act was amended in haste and without making consultation with relevant stakeholders, which needed improvement by making certain changes to ensure resolution of public issues at grass roots level.  They also expressed concern over the division of Tehsil and village councils for the LG polls and asked to remove population gas.

KPK Minister for Local Government Inayatullah Khan while speaking at the seminar said that they had been developed consensus with the political parties and other relevant stakeholders before making amendments in the existing LG Act 2013. For the purpose, he said, a selection committee was also formed to take on board all the relevant institutions and stakeholders to make the Act more inclusive and acceptable to all. “We brought drastic changes in the LB Act 2013, which is too much better from the previous Ordinances of 1979 and 2001,” the minister said, adding they were not encouraging the institutions, but in the LG Act maximum focus has given to amicably resolve the basic issues of masses at grass-root level.

The minister informed that a biometric system would be introduced in the upcoming elections to ensure transparency and fairness in the local bodies elections, while a consultation process was being initiated with the Election Commission of Pakistan. The delimitation process was started in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa that would be completed till January 15, next year, Inayat said and added then they would be in a position to request the Election Commission to announce date for holding local bodies’ elections in the province.   Earlier, PPP representative speaking on the occasion shed light about the changes in KP Local Government Act 2013, and expressed concern over holding local bodies’ polls on non-party basis in tehsil and union council, while on party basis in district level. About the age limit 21-30 years, for candidate to contest LG polls, he said that that mostly youth were engaged in study, which could not be spared time to play their role resolving issues of masses. He, however, demanded to increase the age limit for candidate to 35 years. Referring the pre-elections statement of PTI chairman Imran Khan to hold local bodies elections within 90 days, he said, the provincial government was yet to announce a clear timeframe for holding elections in the province.

Besides, Tour Gul said that basic rights were ignored due to enforcement of decades old British law in Fata, while the government was also unwillingness to resolve the tribesmen’s issues at grass-root level, by holding LB elections in tribal areas. “If government want to give due rights to tribal people and bring change in the social fabric, then the ‘black law’ should be abolish in FATA, he demanded. Shaheen Habibullah, Mukhtar Bacha, Arshad Haroon were also took part in the discussion.