The ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) have agreed not to push for local government elections ahead of the parliamentary polls scheduled for early next year. Top leaders from the country’s two largest political parties came to the consensus during their talks earlier this year which culminated in the unanimous passage of the 20th Constitutional Amendment.
Insiders from both sides confirmed to The Express Tribune on Sunday that withholding the local government elections – a system introduced by ousted military ruler Pervez Musharraf to devolve powers to the grassroots level – was part of the negotiations.
“We have agreed not to force the issue. We feared there would be political complications which should be avoided,” an official revealed.
On the surface, the talks were aimed at giving legal cover to the election of more than two dozen members of parliament (MPs) suspended by the Supreme Court — on the pretext that they were elected during the period when the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) was not complete, following the passage of the 18th Constitutional Amendment back in 2010.
Officials said that though the two parties specifically decided contours of the transition that has to take place after the fresh parliamentary polls later this year or by March 2013, an understanding on local government polls was also the outcome of the intense parleys that lasted for more than a week.
The revelation came three days after the Supreme Court asked all top legal officers of the provinces and the attorney general to submit a schedule for the local government elections.
Officials from both the PPP and PML-N, however, did not admit that there was “secret deal or understanding” to withhold the local government elections. Rather, they kept on pinning blame on each other for the delay.
PPP Punjab chapter leader Raja Riaz said that it was the provincial administration led by the PML-N that was shying away from seeking votes from people despite PPP’s willingness to accept the challenge.
He, however, did not specify why the PPP did not go for local elections in provinces other than Punjab.
“I can only talk about Punjab,” he said.
PML-N spokesperson Senator Mushahidullah Khan said his party did not see any possibility of local government elections ahead of the parliamentary polls because the electoral rolls were not complete and the task might take ECP some more time.
He, however, denied that his party had any secret deals with the PPP to delay the elections.