“I grow daily to honor facts more and more, and theory less and less.”

–Carlyle

They are two different political parties with distinct ideologies; their leaders spare no chance to get at one another. Yet when it comes to local government elections, strangely enough both Mr Asif Ali Zardari and Mian Nawaz Sharif have the same objective and that is not to allow delegation of administrative and financial powers at the local levels. Therefore no one was surprised when the PPP led government in Sindh and the PML-N led government in Punjab petitioned the Superior Judiciary along with the election commission and obtained directions which have now resulted in the orders of the Supreme Court to the ECP to issue a new schedule for local body elections in Sindh and Punjab. These orders were obtained on the ground that both the High Courts in the Sindh and Punjab have declared the new de-limitation process against the law and therefore this process needs to be done again. The federal government on its part supported the contention of the provincial governments which has now resulted in the rescheduling of the upcoming local body elections. For most of the independent observers the bottom line remains that both PPP and the PML-N have failed to deliver on the promises made to the people of this country before the general elections and are now fearful of a serious backlash that would end up in both parties suffering a major political setback in these two provinces. The basic reason remains the same; rising prices, severe unemployment and deteriorating law and order situation have made the lives of people miserable. A vast majority of the people were so disenchanted with the electoral process that the political parties were fearful regarding the voter turnout or third parties springing a surprise on them. In Sindh, PPP was fearful that the alliance of nationalist elements could deprive them of their power base which could have adverse repercussions in the next general elections.

In Punjab the PML-N has failed to deliver on its commitments and is also fearful of PTI which has the potential to win vast areas in Punjab creating serious problems for the provincial government. On top of this, both the political parties are not willing to delegate any administrative or financial power to the local level and are determined to retain what they call absolute power over the masses.

Both these parties have failed to recognize that there is no such thing as absolute power because there is even limits on divine powers. Pakistan is now enjoying a stint of democratic rule but it has failed to shed the feudal and monarchist tendencies which exist in the country’s political culture. In case transparent elections are held at the local level it will not only create the much needed balance but will be able to cut deep into these tendencies. Therefore both these mainstream political parties through their leadership are fiercely opposed to delegate financial or administrative powers at the lower level.

Presently the massive funds which should have been spent by the local councils have been usurped by the provincial governments who are spending money with impunity and without good reason. This is so because by and large no project worth its name has been able to transfer any benefit to the common man who continues to reel under poverty and the present system which does not allow him with many opportunities to move forward towards prosperity. It must be understood that if the present arrangement continues for a longer period of time a situation may develop where the basic structure of the present democratic dispensation could be threatened. Therefore it is in the interest of the political leadership that it must transfer power both administrative and financial at the grassroots level that will not only increase the sense of participation among the people in the affairs of the country but would also allow the institution of democracy to become strong and flourish.

Already the Punjab law minister has been talking about a delay of about one year or so for the holding of local body elections in Punjab and the confrontation between the MQM and PPP in Sindh also does not auger well for the institution of local bodies. These two factors should be addressed as quickly as possible allowing an early election for the local bodies in both the provinces otherwise democracy would remain as fragile as it has ever been in this country unable to withstand any attempt of adventurism against the institution of democracy in Pakistan.

One hopes that instead of drumming up excuses and more excuses both Pakistan Peoples Party and the PML-N will contribute productively and positively so that not only democracy takes firm roots in this country but the people of Pakistan are able to enjoy the fruits of democratic dispensation.

The writer has been associated with various newspapers as editor and columnist.

Email:zarnatta@hotmail.com