Role of Local Body Elections in the Development of Azad Jammu Kashmir (AJK)

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Hammad Gilani
Historically, it is evident that the states in which local government system was established and the common masses were included in the structure of the state are developed in the world. While, state like Azad Kashmir that do not encourage the devolution of power to lower levels cannot be politically and economically stable. The history of the State has been very interesting in terms of local government system. Its political leaders during their political campaigns had always politically claimed to initiate local elections and establishment of local governments for sharing power and gain the trust vote of natives. However, after coming to power, local elections were often postponed, ignoring democratic principles. The fact of the matter is that Ashrafia (elites) does not want to transfer power and authority to lower levels in order to protect their economic and political interests. It can be said with full confidence that if the system of local government had been established in the true sense, AJK would have been a developed region at that time. One of the main reasons why basic level problems have not been resolved and delayed is the absence of local government elections in the locality. While observing the role of local government in the development of state on international level the most renowned examples are: Canadian local government system is considered the world's most famous and ideal example. Approximately 89% of China's civil servants are subordinate to local governments. The key element in the development of the United States and the United Kingdom is the empowerment of local governments. Local representatives also support the continuation of democracy in India. That is to say, along with the formulation of strategic policies and the role of local representatives has been the most prominent in all the developing countries of the world. Denying the importance of local bodies in contemporary era is inevitable in agro-economic countries like Pakistan. The local bodies functioning is directly impacting the daily life of the people. There is no area of the citizen's life which is not connected with these institutions. These institutions perform the functions related to education, sanitation, public health, industry, many more and try to tackle the day- to-day problems of the local people. In the state like AJK, people having different local languages, origins and cultural backgrounds. There are numerous types of issues faced in the different geographical zones of the state. The state government is unable to know the local problems of the citizens. Only the local people know the local problems and they can suggest the right solution to the local problems because there is no bridge that connect the local population with higher authorities. In this manner, Local bodies can play a significant role in bridging these gaps. In this region, the members of the legislative assembly have various political, social and administrative commitments, therefore, they remain unavailable to address and attend the common issues of the masses during their ruling tenure. The long delays of government officials, culture of nepotism, negligence towards the unheard grievances and promoting the rehabilitation, development of local areas and welfare of local population has created the sense of hopelessness and deficit issues between common people and political leadership of AJK. A need arises for local bodies well versed with the nature of the local problems who can solve these problems and lessen the burden of State government.   The local bodies are considered the best schools of democracy. These institutions develop the qualities of the citizens. They awaken the political consciousness of the people and they experience the feelings of liberty and equality. Therefore, for the success of democracy in any country, the local self-bodies are essential.    According to a great thinker of the Political Science Prof. Seeley, “Democracy is that Government where every citizen takes part.” In a country where there is a provision of the local self-institutions, there exists decentralization of powers. So, People directly take part in the functions connected with their daily needs and the government goes on working in a normal way. The people feel happy and satisfied. In fact, it is the government at the grassroots. In other words, it is the government that is closest to the people. It incorporates the local people in all its activities and also serves as an intermediary between the people and the government.  Above are some of the fact & importance of having a local government in Azad Kashmir. However, the young people of this region are passionate for the development in the political system and culture. In this regard, the report of renowned policymaker Dr. Syed Waqas Ali entitled “Local bodies Elections in Azad Kashmir” has represented the detailed the analysis on the contribution and effects of local governments in a progressive manner.

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