LAHORE - Although local government institutions in Punjab have yet to take a final shape, the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) appears in a firm position to take huge benefit from this system at the grass root level given the political situation and the upcoming general elections.

The PML-N is at present, facing serious challenges put by the Opposition parties which are obviously eying at Punjab to set the stage of their protest drive against the government on Panama leaks issue, Model Town killings, and the corruption which they impute to the PML-N government alleging financial misappropriation of billions of rupees in mega projects started particularly in energy and transport sectors.

Lately, Kashmir has also cropped up to limelight after killing of dozens of freedom fighters in the held valley at the hand of Indian forces. The right wing parties in particular and the opponent political parties in general are looking at the government that what positive and befitting response it delivers to the Modi government in India to force it give the Kashmiris their right to self-determination stopping the bloodbath in the valley with immediate effect.

These parties are also marshalling to stand up against the government in case it failed to adequately show up diplomatic and political efforts at the international level and activate the foreign office desk to tell the world gravity of the situation in Held Kashmir and move it to find a solution to it.

The opposition parties are bracing for agitation on the disputes with the government which in turn has also decided to line up to meet any eventuality from the rival side. The government has now awakened to the need of making the local government institutions functional when it had been going on comfortably for quite some time, with delay in their establishment after the matter had become subjudice in February last on account of PPP, PTI and JI petitions against eight amendments made by the ruling side in the Local Government Ordinance 2013 to affect change in the procedure of election for top and reserved seats. Now the government has withdrawn the amendments through an ordinance and in the Punjab Assembly session on August 4, a formal bill is being presented to reverse the Act to secret balloting and voting for the reserved seats.

It was none other than Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif himself who intervened to seek the LG set up in Punjab as soon as possible. Earlier, the Prime Minister before leaving for London for the open heart surgery in May last, had asked the provincial government to put the LG system in place within that month but then impending Punjab budget and the PM’s stay abroad itself depleted interest in completing the LG system in a month. The PM who had kept himself abreast of the political situation at home during his 48-day stay in London, immediately on his landing in the city on July 9 last had expressed views about the earliest completion of the LG system in Punjab where all three phases of direct elections stand complete since December 5 last year.

In the next phase of the system, election for the reserved seats for women, minorities, youth, labourer/peasant and technocrats would be held. Following that election for the slots of mayor, deputy mayors of metropolitan and municipal corporations, chairman and deputy chairmen of district councils would take place. The Punjab government officials say the next two phases of the process would be completed by the last week of next month.

The PML-N has wide margin over all other parties in the direct LB elections in Punjab. With 3,332 seats it stands at the top followed by 2,838 Independents of the total 7,602 seats. Except Mianwali and Rahim Yar Khan where PTI and the PPP respectively lead, the PML-N has clear majority in rest of 34 districts of the province to place its representative at the top slots.

Reports by the party insiders reveal that party leadership is confronting problems as some groups in the South are vying to get their representative on the high positions. The party had previously devised a policy that no favourites of the MNAs and the groups on the top seats will be accepted as such it wanted to find a mid way for win-win situation for all. However, these differences are not so deep.

A large number of Independents have also joined the PML-N. Given all this, political observers in the background interviews say that the LG system in Punjab would be a handy tool with the government against the opposition protest. The institution cannot only mop up public support in favour of the N-League but can also get the better of other side by addressing their needs and problems at the local level. Projection of the government achievements as well as putting across the public government point of view on any issue would also be ready affairs for the N-League. They further say the LG would also be a big help to gather the masses in support of government for a rally or any other show of public power. Going beyond that the LG system would also be great help to the ruling party to firm up the party at grass root to vie the voters for the general election.

Sindh which had also stalled the next phase of the LG polls simultaneously with Punjab has announced schedule for next round. In this view, chances are bright that Punjab would also embark on the process immediately after August 4.