From the national to the local: challenges and good practices in elections across Pakistan’s governance levels

While Pakistan’s General Elections 2018 were competitive and pluralistic, many challenges were noted by election observers. Further legal reforms are needed, not the least in view of upcoming elections in Pakistan’s provinces. This was the conclusion of DRI’s roundtable dialogue in Islamabad on 22 November 2018.

Over 60 participants, including federal and provincial ministers, parliamentarians, public officials, representatives of academia, and civil society, came together to discuss lessons learned from Pakistan’s July 25 Elections, the new Elections Act 2017, and its implementation gaps — all with a view to challenges of the upcoming local elections in Pakistan’s provinces due in 2019. The FATA region, consisting of autonomous entities bordering Afghanistan which have recently been integrated back into Pakistan through a constitutional amendment, will go through a historic first-ever Provincial Assembly election next year. Discussions converged around key reform topics such as the revision of the local government framework as well as issues such as delimitation, women and minority vote.

Mr. Taimur Khan, Finance Minister of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, talked about the key features of newly proposed legislations in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, including the establishment and strengthening of village councils for the rural areas and improving the model for urban areas by having city governments that are run by mayors. Mr. Bilal Rao, member of the Prime Minister’s Local Government Task Force, said that the purpose is to reform governance through local bodies at the grassroots level with the allocation of appropriate funds and delegation of authority. Under the proposed legislation, different structures for urban and rural areas are foreseen.

Participants agreed that the process of dialogue and engagement should be carried on to make headway in realizing democratic local governance across the country.

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