MUZAFFARABAD: local elections will play an important role in empowering citizens and eliminating frustration in society. Those views were expressed by speakers speaking at a conference on local elections organized by the Center for Peace, Development and Reform (CPDR) here on Monday.
Leaders of the Pakistan People Party, Tehreek-e-Insaf, Muslim League and Muslim Conference welcomed the upcoming local elections to be held at the end of November this year, saying that these elections will have a positive impact on Azad Kashmir’s politics and society. ushering in a new era of development in Azad Kashmir.
Former People’s Party Minister Sardar Javed Ayub, Electoral Commission Member Farhat Ali Mir, Muslim League Representative Zahid Amin Kashif, PTI Leader Sardar Muhammad Israel Qazi, Shaukat Javed Mir, Shahid Awan, Faisal Jameel Kashmiri, Ershad Mahmud, Dr. Waqas Ali, Murad Ali, Ms. Faiza Gilani, Irtaza Muhammad and others also spoke at the conference.
Sardar Javed Ayub said that the PPP fully supports the local body elections and expects new leadership to emerge from these elections. Middle-class youth get a chance to volunteer. He said he wants to see the local government system strengthened and efficient.
At the conference, Electoral Commission member Farhat Ali Mir said that after three decades, people would participate in this election. It is the constitutional responsibility of the Electoral Commission to conduct local elections every four years. He called on civil society organizations to play an active role in making people aware of the importance of these elections and their participation in them.
Farhat Ali Mir said it is important to elect educated and knowledgeable representatives in the elections because local government officials have to draft development plans and play the role of a bridge between the government and the people. Farhat Ali Mir said that the assemblies are the heart of the democratic system and local governments are its arteries, without which the functioning of the body is impossible. He said everyone, including women, youth and minorities, has an equal chance to try their luck in the elections.
Sardar Usman Atiq, Chairman of the Muslim Conference, said before the conference that holding the local government elections was a good start. However, this was a gradual process and gradually the local government system would become strong and efficient. He suggested not expecting quick results. He said that youth and women should enter the electoral field vigorously and compete without fear.
PTI leader Sardar Mohammad Israel Qazi said that Tehreek-e-Insaf managed to transfer power to the grassroots in line with Imran Khan’s vision. PTI will win a remarkable victory in local elections and empower ordinary people, he expected.
On that occasion, PML-N leader Zahid Amin Kashif said that the democratic system cannot take root without local elections. He said that the Muslim League will take part in the election with full vigour. It is the people’s right to have their local problems solved at the local level. He expressed the hope that the democratic system would be strengthened by the LG election.
SDG Coordinator for Azad Kashmir, Syed Ali Hasnain Gilani, highlighted the opportunities for local governments to achieve Sustainable Development Goals in the region. He said that with the establishment of local governments, problems such as hunger, food insecurity, the health crisis, education problems, lack of safe drinking water and sanitation, lack of decent job opportunities and environmental sustainability issues could be consensually addressed.
CPDR Director Ershad Mahmud said that the democratic process is not only completed by the election of the Legislative Assembly, but that citizens must participate in the decision-making process. He said that the local government system plays a role in developing the democratic system and developing strong leadership. He said that after the election there should be a discussion about the problems faced by local bodies.
dr Waqas Ali, the conference host, said that women and youth should have equal opportunities to develop and become part of the political system so that they can play a positive role in the development of the state. He said it is the responsibility of political parties to give young people and women maximum tickets.
Social activist Irtaza Muhammad said that after the election, elected members of the local government should pay attention to effective service delivery so that their credibility can be established.
Faisal Jameel Kashmiri stressed that elections should be free, transparent and reliable. Common people should be given more opportunities because they are the only ones who know about local problems and have to face the consequences of poor governance.
Journalist Ms. Faiza Gilani highlighted the importance of women’s participation in the upcoming LG elections, saying that women are underrepresented in the AJK as voters and in leadership positions. She stressed the need to improve the fair representation of women in all political structures and official bodies.
A civil society activist, Ms Rukhsar Shafqat, said local elections could be a means of empowering women. She commended that 12.5 percent of seats at all levels of local government are reserved for women, but societal pressures such as socio-cultural and religious practices do not allow women to participate with full vigor and zeal and achieve higher political status.
PPP youth leader Murad Ali said that a large number of young people are keen to take part in the elections, but they should also receive the necessary education so that they can be elected and have a chance to play their part in development and good governance of the state.
Raja Shahid Latif, a Muslim League youth leader, expressed his determination to take part in the election and fight hard to see his union council make a difference. He said local elections are their right and not a favour.