WEB DESK: The residents of Islamabad, fondly called Isloos, who play host to almost all apex power centres of the nation, were virtually powerless and had no say in managing their own affairs – but until this past Monday.
Through a relatively less uproarious and fairly disciplined electoral exercise they have elected 50 union council chairmen and 650 councillors to form an electoral college for the election of 16 more UC chairmen, which in turn would elect a mayor and three deputy mayors to run Islamabad Metropolitan Corporation (IMC).
According to unofficial results, of the elected UC chairmen 21 belong to the Pakistan Muslim League, 16 to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and the rest are Independents, a spread that gives key to the corporation’s door to those who were not adopted by any of the 23 contesting political parties.
Given that the capital city never had an elected municipal management and that for most of the elected UC chairmen, who would now act as the elected house; the workability of this experiment remains unpredictable. In that there are questions that need to be answered. Will the IMC act as third tier of governance, or second tier like the provincial assemblies are, or will it be both?
And if both as the second and third tiers, will it then be a beneficiary of devolution of powers and provincial autonomy envisaged by the 18th Constitutional Amendment? If past is any guide, it is beyond one’s imagination that the federal government would delegate its powers to a clutch of novices-in-politics. And if one is to believe that empowerment of the elected city fathers would be confined to ensuring streets are free of rubbish and streetlights work and water supply remains uninterrupted then this onerous duty could better be left with the Capital Development Authority.
The question whether they would have powers to police the city, order postings and transfers of concerned officials in utility services departments and tinker with the capital’s Master Plan has no easy answer.
Powerless the newly-elected house may turn out to be, but the way it has come into being it does throw up some revealing signs about the popularity of the political parties and what sells with the residents of the Islamabad, which is both urbanised to the extreme and rural in culture and politics. Of the 50 elected UC chairmen none is from the so-called custodians of Pakistan ideology, Pakistan People’s Party and Jamaat-e-Islami.
Isn’t that the people are looking to the future, unmindful of what these parties did and achieved for the masses in the past. And to one’s absolute bewilderment, of the 50 elected UC chairmen only one is from the female gender. Why so in the nation’s capital where civil society and women rights outfits are always on the front foot espousing the cause of women on all fronts. Then there is the agonising observation of Convenor of World Minorities Alliance J Salik that only minorities should have the right to elect minority representatives as against the present vote-casting process.
One more interesting, if not telling, upshot from the poll results is the voters’ verdict on Imran Khan’s 124-day dharna in the heart of capital, and then widely criticised as extremely harmful to the city’s businesses. But what to say now that his party bagged more votes in the areas that were adversely affected by the dharna. Is it that despite his ill-conceived dharna politics and its injurious fallout the business community has adjudged him a better option than the Sharifs-led ruling party?
But then if the PTI got more votes in the capital city’s posh sectors it lost in the rural areas, where traditional clannish loyalties dominate voting pattern, and that happens to be pro-PML (N). With plenty of Independents in the field it is quite likely that the PML (N) would succeed in winning over five or six of them in exchange for a deputy mayor seat and win the top slot of the Islamabad Metropolitan Corporation. Having said that one is at loss to understand how the newly-elected city fathers – with all of their friendships and connections with people including encroachers, violators of building rules and land-grabbing mafias, and their parties’ preferences and choices – would succeed in translating their election pledges into action.
Not being adequately equipped with necessary administrative and financial powers their performance is not going to be at par with their voters’ expectations. But that is hardly an argument against the need to have an elected administration for Islamabad. Perhaps, the residents of Islamabad Capital Territory have voted more independently than in rest of Pakistan.