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Battle for Islamabad

The local government election campaign in Islamabad is at its most crucial stage. The election will take place on December 31, 2022. Most likely, the election will feature a two-way race between the opposition PTI and the ruling PML-N.

To attract nearly a million votes, the TLP, JI, and a substantial number of independent candidates have also been engaged in a vigorous electoral campaign. Additionally, candidates from the PPP are also vying for office.

There are around 4,403 candidates competing in 101 union councils (UCs). To win the forthcoming elections, both PTI and PML-N are conducting aggressive campaigns. The outcome of the election will significantly affect the national politics and indicate the mood of the populace. Despite not being one of the country’s major cities, Islamabad is a good indicator of national political trends because it is home to residents from virtually all the towns of the country.

In the general elections of 2018, the PTI won two seats in the National Assembly from Islamabad’s city and rural areas. The PTI is supposed to benefit from the current wave of its popularity. Over the years, the party has developed significant political networks; especially in urban areas, it enjoys strong pockets of influence. Majlis Wahdat-e-Muslimeen (MWM), a small but effective party, gave the PTI unqualified support, which will also brighten the chances of the PTI’s success in elections.

Since assuming power in Islamabad, the PML-N has successfully regained its lost political space. A number of construction projects have been finished quickly, including the introduction of mass transit, two metro services and the green and blue lines, which offer daily commuters tremendous comfort.

However, the PML-N is in a difficult situation due to the skyrocketing cost of food and the increase in poverty levels. This could affect the party’s chances of winning the LG election. Additionally, it has been heard that in some union councils, the PML-N and PPP may field joint candidates to oppose the PTI.

In the last elections of the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad, held in 2015, the PML-N won the majority of the seats while the PTI emerged as the second-largest party. Since the elected leadership of the MCI took office, a power struggle broke out between the Capital Development Authority, and the Metropolitan Corporation, Islamabad, on matters of jurisdiction, taxation, and the execution of development projects. The MCI has not been entrusted with financial and administrative authority while the CDA has been calling the shots. The MCI remained a dysfunctional body, through its five-year term, concluding in February 2021.

The local governments can only be effective if they are administratively and financially empowered. The main task faced by the newly elected MCI leadership will be to reclaim its authority from the CDA and establish its administrative writ in accordance with the Local Government Act 2015. During the last five years, the MCI and the CDA have been at loggerheads over the division of assets, functions, and human resources. Even the rules of business have not been finalized yet. As a result, CDA pays salaries to the MCI’s employees. The taxes that the local government ought to collect are collected by the CDA instead.

According to the Islamabad Capital Territory Local Government Act, the MCI has the authority to maintain marketplaces and commercial areas in addition to offering public services like water supply, sewage treatment, sanitation, and solid waste collection. Additionally, it has the power to manage facilities, assets, and revenues that belong to the local government. Due to the lack of rules of business, the CDA handles all of these tasks.

To secure fiscal independence and grant the Metropolitan Corporation, Islamabad the ability to carry out its duties in accordance with the law and the aspirations of the residents, the federal government must revise the Local Government Act 2015.

The federal government must agree to financially empower the MCI in order to render the local government system fully functional. The CDA should only serve as a regulatory authority, which includes planning, developing, and maintaining the city’s master plan. On the other hand, the MCI should be given the authority to oversee and manage municipal services and infrastructure.

Remember that the CDA has been largely in charge of the capital city since the 1960s, whereas the MCI is a new organization managed by elected representatives who, on average, have less administrative and planning expertise than the CDA. Islamabad has steadily grown into a large metropolis confronting significant difficulties and governance issues as faced by the other major cities. Many displaced persons from the former Fata and earthquake-affected regions sought refuge in Islamabad’s outskirts. The city has also seen the establishment of dozens of slums and katchi abadis, especially in the last two decades.

The quality of public services and environmental conditions have drastically declined as a result of the expanding population. The posh neighbourhoods are receiving the majority of the financial resources, leaving the rest of Islamabad largely ignored and dejected. Shortage of water, absence of sewage management and dilapidated roads are the hallmark of the ‘other’ Islamabad nowadays.

Therefore, it is now necessary to create a comprehensive and functional LG system that enables residents’ participation in decision-making processes and ensures modern municipal services.

Email: ershad.mahmud@gmail.com

Ershad Mahmud, "Battle for Islamabad," The News. 2022-12-21.
Keywords: Political science , Political issues , Political networks , Political parties , Elections , Jurisdiction , Poverty , Pakistan , CDA , PTI , PMLN