Imran Khan and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf’s signature reform project in Punjab – the reform of the local government system – seems to be in trouble.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has protested the new Punjab Local Government Act (PLGA) 2019, stating that it contradicts the Election Act 2017. ECP is of the opinion that the representatives elected under the PLGA 2013 should be allowed to complete their terms before dismissing the entire local government structure. A three-member Senior Puisne judge Justice Mamoon Rashid Sheikh, Justice Shahid Waheed, and Justice Jawad Hassan are heading the case at the Lahore High Court (LHC). The bench has sought the personal appearance of provincial secretaries for law and local government on the next hearing. State resources and capital was invested in the election of local government representatives and their tenures were also legally binding. They should be allowed to stay in office and continue to work till their tenure finishes. This practice will not only encourage the government to work with the previous local government set up and understand its benefits and drawbacks, but it will also allow them the space to work with representatives of other parties - a feat which has been quite difficult for the current government to achieve. The ECP has also pointed out discrepancies in the execution of the local government elections because the new law makes it difficult to conduct polls due to contradictions in the process for election and the delimitation given in it. The government has to take into account the concerns of the ECP because they are stakeholders in the process and the process can only run effectively if they are allowed the space to conduct matters as per the confines of the Election Act 2017.

There is also a critique that the PLGA 2019 has been passed without any debate in the National Assembly (NA). That draws the criticism that the Act is biased and not in the best interest of grassroots democracy in the country. The devolution of power can only empower the democratic set up within the country and at this point, the dismissal of the previous law has sent around 60,000 elected representatives home. While there is a need to debate the performance of these elected representatives, there is also a need to debate how they can be made useful while they complete their own terms. Punjab is a densely populated province and the government can use the skillset of these representatives to help effectively run the province.