Local Governments a Gift of Sardar Tanveer Ilyas

In the last 32 years in Azad Kashmir, the legislative assembly has completed its term six times. Throughout this period, several prime ministers came and went, each promising to conduct local elections with great enthusiasm in their party manifestos. However, credit is due to the former Prime Minister of Azad Kashmir, Sardar Tanveer Ilyas Khan, who actually fulfilled his promise. The call for local elections in Azad Kashmir was so frequently raised that it became perceived as insincere, almost turning the conduct of these elections into a joke.
Daily predictions of impending local elections became commonplace, but when winter arrived, analysts claimed that conducting elections in the cold months was impractical. On occasions, local elections were postponed for a few months, and they didn’t happen at all. Past governments made excuses, citing reasons like insufficient funds, security concerns, and the harsh weather. This cycle continued for 31 years.
Over the years, children matured into adults, adults aged, and some passed away. In 2022, Prime Minister Sardar Tanveer Ilyas Khan not only allocated funds for local elections but also promptly released them to the Election Commission. Consequently, the Election Commission had no excuse to further delay the local elections.
Ensuring security for elections posed a significant challenge. The federal government declined to deploy security forces for local body elections. The then Prime Minister Sardar Tanveer Ilyas Khan, faced resistance from opposition and even within his own party. Some members of the ruling party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, opposed local elections fearing a reduction in the powers of assembly members. Certain ministers believed that holding local elections would diminish the powers of assembly members, limiting their ability to allocate development funds to councilors. There were concerns that councilors, through development funds, would gain more influence than assembly members, and some ministers feared that district council chairmen might wield more power than government ministers.
Despite these hurdles, Sardar Tanveer Ilyas Khan stood firm on his decision to hold timely elections. Election commissions formed security committees and announced elections. The opposition not only rejected these committees but also contemplated boycotting the elections through them. Eventually, the opposition decided to participate.
In a historic decision, Sardar Tanveer Elias Khan opted to conduct local elections in Azad Kashmir through local security forces. The process unfolded in three phases, all of which remained remarkably peaceful. Undoubtedly, this was a significant success for the government, and the people of Azad Kashmir played a crucial role.
The democratic spirit of the people was evident during the polling for local bodies. I personally witnessed the enthusiasm at the garden polling station as I cast my vote in Bagh. For the first time, people were actively engaged in politics at the grassroots level. Sardar Tanveer Ilyas Khan received praise from various quarters, acknowledging that the conduct of local elections was no ordinary feat.
Having fulfilled the promise of local elections, Sardar Tanveer Ilyas Khan proceeded to empower local institutions. Despite facing a judicial decision rendering, him ineligible, a coalition government emerged, with Chaudhry Anwar-ul-Haq elected as the Prime Minister. However, the situation has evolved into having more than 35 ministers and advisers, with powers concentrated in Prime Minister Chaudhry Anwar-ul-Haq’s hands. The challenge now is to balance powers and provide municipal representatives with greater autonomy.

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