Media should cover local issues ahead of polls
LAHORE: The local government elections will give the press an opportunity – one that it should take to shift focus from national issues to local issues, said speakers at a seminar at Alhamra on The Mall on Thursday.
The seminar, titled ‘Role of Media in Local Government Elections’, was organised by the Centre for Journalism and Peace, a non-government organisation that trains media professionals.
The participants said the mainstream media often didn’t have time to focus on local issues, which were resultantly ignored. But it should set the stage for local government elections by reporting on local issues, they said. The election candidates should be asked questions about their plans to improve local infrastructure, they said. Community participation in the elections would be ensured if the media covered local government issues properly.
Journalist Sajjad Mir said the local government set-up should be given protection in the Constitution. He said it was true that military rulers had used local governments to bypass the provinces and distribute funds through their handpicked men. He said primary level education should be a local government subject, as it was in many countries.
Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO) Regional Head Salman Abid said the argument for party-less local government election was weak. “If you argue in favour of non-party elections because otherwise there would be quarrels at the grassroots level among party workers, then you should also look at the scale of the fights for tickets during elections for MPAs and MNAs. Party-less elections would just strengthen the caste system politics,” he said.
Abid said that the media should inform people of the responsibilities and powers of the elected members in the local government system. The media should also compare the Pakistani or Punjabi model with local government systems in other countries and see how they are successful.
He said all around the world, health and education were subjects for local government, but here in Pakistan, the provincial governments were not ready to give up these powers. “The issue is that everybody here, from president to prime minister to MPA, wants to construct roads. This is not the job of legislators. This job should be given to local government representatives,” he added.
Lawyer Azhar Siddique said that the Constitution contained no provision stating that the local government elections should be held after an assembly completes its term. He said law and order could best be controlled through local governments, as local representatives knew the people in their areas.
HomeNet Pakistan Senior Programme Officer Javaid Pasha said the media should tell people how many seats there are in the local government system and what roles are to be played by elected members.
The media could also tell the stories of those councillors and nazims who started as grassroots political workers or social workers who rose through the ranks.
He said case studies of previous local leaders should be shared with the people to guide future leaders.