On 10th March 2015, The SPO Lahore Region held a Conference on ‘Local Government Elections in Punjab: Issues and Challenges’ in collaboration with its AAWAZ consortium Partners SAP-PK, Aurat Foundation, Sungi and DAI in Lahore.
It was demanded that the Election Commission of Punjab, along with the concerned Government authorities hold free, fair and impartial elections for the Local Government in Punjab on party basis in the light and directions of the decision given by Supreme Court to strengthen the institutions. Speakers addressing the conference included SPO Chief of Programs Zafar Zeeshan, Opposition Leader, Mian Mehmsood ur Rasheed, Secretary Information JUI Ameer –ul-Azeem, Chairman Standing Committee Local Government Abdur Razzaq Dhilu, Ex-MNA/Human Rights Activist Mehnaz Rafi, Senior Media Expert Iftikhar Ahmed, SPO Regional Head Lahore Salman Abid, Executive Director LG Association Punjab Anwar Hussain, , Senior Advocate & LG Expert Qazi Mobeen and Resident Director Aurat Foundation Nasreen Zahra. The Charter of Demand was presented by Ayesha Rao from SPO, SPO Program Specialist whereas Shahnawaz Khan hosted the conference. During the Q/A session the audience emphasized that an effective and strengthened local government system along with the Provincial and Federal Governments is necessary for the Democracy.
The speakers unanimously agreed that it is necessary for the Provincial Government to not only hold local government elections, but also give them political, financial and administrative powers which is already under the Clause 140 of Constituents.
The following AAWAZ CoD was presented along with a position paper on Local Government addressing the provincial/federal government and policymakers:
Recognize local governments as the ‘Primary Tier’ of governance through a constitutional amendment.
Determine a timeframe for constituting local governments (for example, within three months of holding general elections) and make provisions to ensure that this schedule is adhered to.
Strengthen the ECP and district Election Commission offices to ensure smooth and impartial organization of elections.
Ensure representation of women and excluded groups in local government by amending Article 32 of the Constitution accordingly.
Similarly, the Provincial Government of respective provinces was urged to take the following actions:
Facilitate the ECP to carry out delimitation of constituencies (in case of Punjab) as soon as possible, or, in case of KP, hold local government elections as soon as possible given that delimitation has taken place.
Empower local governments through enactment of subordinate legislation to clearly define their functions.
The Conference was attended by the representatives of civil society and the community of the targeted areas of the Aawaz Program across Punjab. Total 215 (102 Men, 112 Women, 1 Transgender) attended the conference including individuals from the media (print and electronic), SPO civil society network of Lahore, Members Provincial Assembly (especially women MPA), women leadership and workers from political parties PTI, PML (N), PPP, MQM, and JUI. There was significant participation of AAWAZ (all consortium partners) district and village forum members (especially women) from Mianwali, Khushab, Gujranwala, Bahawalpur, Sargodha, Jhang, Mandi bahudin, Okara, who demonstrated their support and demanded for local government elections in Punjab.
Speakers of the conference urged that in the light of The Supreme Court’s order, new constituencies should be made so that the Local Government elections may be held in time. It was further demanded that the 33 % women representation along with the representation of youth, labour, and Minorities should be enhanced and made effective so that they may play their part in helping the deprived and marginalized community of society
Chairman Standing Committee Local Government Abdur Razzaq Dhilu made an announcement at the event that Local Government elections in Punjab will certainly be held soon, so that democratic practices and accountability mechanism could be strengthened for benefit of the common people.