“The State of Jammu & Kashmir was one of the largest amongst 560 princely States in British Rule in India. The ownership of state was transferred to Dogra Gulab Singh on the payment of 7.5 million rupees according to Amritsar Deed of 1846. The Dogra despotic and oppressive rule The Dogra despotic and oppressive rule caused unrest in majority of population of the state. In order to resolve the issues Glancy Commission was formed which gave recommendation to form Praja Sbah (Legislative Assembly partly elected and partly nominated). This was the first time when Local Government took its shape in AJK. The elections to the Assembly were held in 1934, 1938 and 1946.
In AJK about 88% of the total population lives in the rural areas. So, Local Government is highly responsible for planning and implementation of programs for socio-economic development of rural infrastructure. Local Government institutions mainly focuses on provision of potable drinking water, improvement of sanitation, health and hygiene conditions, construction of rural infrastructure such as rural roads, footpaths, foot bridges, identification, planning and utilization of local resources, awareness raising campaigns, organization of communities and local councils etc. Arrangement of funds to undertake these activities is made from the following resources:
- Annual budget from Government of AJK
- Funds generated by Local Councils
- Funds/contribution from local communities
- Assistance from Government, Semi-Government organizations
- International Agencies/Donors as agreed by Government (World Bank, IDA, UNICEF, FAO, Asian Development Bank etc.)
In case of Pakistan, military dictators have tried to introduce democracy at the grassroots level but elected civilian governments have always created hindrances in holding local government elections to empower the ordinary people.
Last Local Government Elections were held in AJK in 1991 and next elections were scheduled in 1995. But the government delayed elections at that time due to gain some political benefits from the forthcoming General Elections of 1996. After that Local Government Elections were scheduled to be held in 1996. About 4.6 million rupees of Surety was deposited by the candidates throughout AJK. But elections got cancelled on the account of correction of voter lists. Since 1995, the charge of Local Government institutions is being given to ‘Administrators’ who are either government officials or ruling party leaders.
In Azad Kashmir, the last local bodies elections were held in 1991. It’s been 25 years that people in AJK are being deprived of their basic rights as given in the constitution. In developed countries and many developing countries various public services like health, education, infrastructure, civil services etc. are controlled and regularized by the local government on account of better delivery of services in an efficient manner. This decentralization is playing an important role in flourishing democracy and the democratic process in these countries. So, it is the need of hour that Local government elections are held in AJK on priority basis to eradicate political disorder.” – Maqsood Amin – AJK, Pakistan