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What are cantonment board elections?

The cantonment board elections will be held on Sept 12. Source: FILE.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) is set to hold local government elections in 42 cantonment boards across the country on September 12. 

Here is everything you should know about cantonment board elections.

What is a cantonment?

A cantonment can be considered a permanent military base of Pakistan Army administered by Cantonment Boards under the control of the Military Lands & Cantonments Department (ML&C) of the Ministry of Defence.

Cantonments are established under and governed by the Cantonments Act 1924. In recent times, the demographic character of most independence era cantonments has changed, as they are no longer primarily “garrison” areas and include significant civilian populations and private businesses.

Based on the strength of civil population, the cantonments have been divided into three classes.

– Class I Cantonments, in which the civil population is 100,000 or more;
– Class II Cantonments, in which the civil population is 50,000 or more but less than 100,000;
– Class III Cantonments, in which the civil population is less than 50,000.

There are a total of 44 cantonments in Pakistan. This includes eight in Sindh, nine in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, four in Balochistan, two in Gilgit-Baltistan, and 23 in Punjab. 

What is Cantonment Act 1924?

The Cantonments Act 1924 was a landmark in the history of cantonments and brought sweeping changes. The act introduced the representative local government system, under which elected representatives of the civil population became members of the Cantonment Boards.

The boards were created as autonomous statutory local bodies for providing civil services. The powers and functions of the Cantonment Board are synonymous to municipal committees in the cities.

The members constituting the board are both officially nominated as well as elected through a direct vote on the basis of adult franchise. Officials nominated as members hold the majority. The station commander, a senior military officer, is the ex-officio president of the board.

Structure of cantonment board

The administration of cantonments and management of military lands inside and outside the cantonments is centrally controlled and supervised by the Military Lands and Cantonments Department, which is an attached department of the Ministry of Defence headed by a director-general.

He is assisted by an additional director and a deputy director at the headquarters. In addition, five Regional Deputy Directors based at Peshawar, Rawalpindi, Lahore, Karachi and Quetta supervise the respective cantonment boards in their jurisdiction.

The Cantonment Executive Officer is the principal executive at the local level. The board normally decides and lays down policies, while the executive officer executes these policies.

The Cantonment Board is an organ of the local government and is free to formulate policies for local development within the framework of the Cantonments Act and other government regulations.

All Cantonments Boards work under the administrative control of the director-general of Military Lands and Cantonments. He may issue various directives on important policy matters, and the Cantonment Boards comply with the same. All accounts are audited annually by the Audit Department of the Government of Pakistan.

Cantonment Board elections 2021

The local bodies elections are set to take place on September 12 in cantonment boards across Sindh and the rest of the country. The previous cantonment LG elections were held in 2015 after a gap of more than 15 years.

There are eight cantonment boards in Sindh — six in Karachi and one each in Hyderabad, and Pano Aqil — and elections are held for general councillors in as many wards.

The PPP, MQM-P, PTI, JI, PSP, and PML-N are the major political parties that will contest the polls in the cantonments boards. Some of them have formed committees for shortlisting the names of potential candidates and running the campaigns, while independent candidates also take part in the polls.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has rejected the PTI’s request for army deployment during the upcoming cantonment board elections.

The September 12 cantonment board elections will be the first grassroots level electoral contest between the rival political parties after the 2018 general elections. The polls have been pending since 2019 because of the coronavirus pandemic and re-demarcation of wards in the cantonments.