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Citizens' perspective on local bodies elections

As the country gears up to vote for members of the local government, a lot is being reported in the media as well as by civil society groups about the different intricacies of the system. Allegations of misconduct and pre-poll rigging are being made with the Election Commission of Pakistan taking notice of some of the allegations. While a lot of focus has rightly gone on the process of devolution of power itself, for this e-input, individualland wanted to concentrate on the entity in whose name this entire exercise is being undertaken i.e. the citizen. What does the citizen think of the entire exercise? What has been the experience of the citizen ?For this purpose, individu-land field contacts have asked some people for their perceptions. Individualland intends to conduct such exercises to get the citizens' views in all the four provinces , but we start with Karachi, where citizens of Jamshed town share their views. .

At this point ,individual-land would like to clarify that the field contacts talked to twenty eight people of different economic incomes within the middle class strata and different ethnicities living in Jamshed Town. This was by no means an exhaustive opinion poll, and thus the results must be considered in this light.

Jamshed Town 's inhabitants are mostly middle class salaried people and according to them, the local government experience of the past five years has not been that bleak although there are a number of things that need to be addressed. According to the group of citizens, this was a system which was not welcomed , in their opinion, either by the major political stakeholders or the bureaucracy. The fact that it survived in spite of the odds being stacked against it is encouraging and on Aug 18th the citizens intend to turn out to vote. The citizens group comprising of both males and females told our field contacts that this system started delivering two years after it's implementation for in the first two years the representatives and the citizens both were not clear on the processes and responsibilities. The 2002 elections further delayed understanding of the process in their opinion, as just as the local government members and citizens were finding their bearings, there came another wielder of authority. However, citizens declared this ``political tug of war" beneficial to the citizen because now three tiers i.e. the local , provincial and federal were pronouncing that the complaint must be addressed to them and they were there to help the citizens.

The group however, emphasized to individu-land field contacts that significant improvement in the local bodies systems needs to be done starting with clear demarcation of roles and a balancing of power and authority between the three tiers. In their opinion, the forecast of violence in the upcoming polls in Karachi is because that the local tier has been given a lot of authority and the provincial and federal tiers have not been adequately compensated. The citizens drew the attention of individu-land field contacts towards media reports of sitting ministers contesting local elections to support this argument. The last local officially non-party elections in Karachi brought to power members ideologically inclined towards the MMA. According to the citizens of Jamshed Town they have delivered to a certain extent.

The MMA in NWFP has sought to bring about Islamization in the province by blackening bill boards, cutting off cable, burning videos and the latest is the Hasba Bill. All these steps are designed to make the citizens of NWFP better Muslims although some would argue that socially the province is very conservative. Seen from the prism of conventional ritualistic Islam, Karachi would score low on the Islamization scale in comparison to Peshawar. When asked as to why do they think the MMA never sought to bring about Hasba like steps in Karachi. their response to this seemingly socio-politically juvenile question was `` In addition to Karachi being a cosmopolitan progressive city, the MMA in Karachi always has to content with an organized ,secular power, the MQM."

In the opinion of the citizens, the PPP , PPP-S , and ANP in the NWFP did not present organized and secular organized forces which could be contending balancers.

Individu-land is non partisan but it would like to state that perhaps in the political arena the MMA and the MQM are perhaps the most organized platforms for articulation of respective political views. While a lot of focus has been on the probable violence expected in the tug of war between the two in the upcoming polls in Karachi, for political analysts, it does emphasize the importance of organized political parties that can serve to counter each other's extreme positions for the benefit of the citizen.



individualland.com (Last Updated Wednesday, 26 October 2016)

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