MUZAFFARABAD: Local government elections will play an important role in empowering the citizens and removing the frustration in society. These views were expressed by the speakers while addressing a conference organized by the Center for Peace, Development and Reforms (CPDR) regarding local government elections here on Monday. Leaders of the Pakistan People Party, Tehreek-e-Insaf, Muslim League and Muslim Conference welcomed the upcoming local government elections to be held at the end of November this year and said that these elections will positively affect the politics and society of Azad Kashmir, ushering in a new era of development in Azad Kashmir. People’s Party’s former Minister Sardar Javed Ayub, Election Commission member Farhat Ali Mir, Muslim League representative Zahid Amin Kashif, PTI leader Sardar Muhammad Israel Qazi, Shaukat Javed Mir, Shahid Awan, Faisal Jameel Kashmiri, Ershad Mahmud, Dr. Waqas Ali, Murad Ali, Ms. Faiza Gilani, Irtaza Muhammad and others also addressed the conference. Sardar Javed Ayub said that PPP fully supported the local body elections and expected new leadership to emerge from these elections. Middle-class youth will get a chance to come forward. He said that he wanted to see the local government system empowered and efficient. Addressing the conference, Member Election Commission Farhat Ali Mir said that the people were participating in this election after three decades. It is the constitutional responsibility of the Election Commission to conduct local government elections every four years. He urged civil society organizations to play an active role in making people aware of the importance of these elections and their participation in them. Farhat Ali Mir said that it was important to elect educated and knowledgeable representatives in the elections because local government representatives had to design development plans and they had to play the role of a bridge between the government and the people. Farhat Ali Mir said that the assemblies were the heart of the democratic system and the local governments were its arteries, without which the functioning of the body was impossible. He said that everyone, including women, youth, and minorities, had an equal opportunity to try their luck in the elections. Addressing the Conference, Sardar Usman Atiq, leader Muslim Conference said that holding the local body elections was a good start. However, this was a gradual process and gradually the local government system would get strong and efficient. He suggested not expecting quick results. He said that the youth and women should energetically enter the election field and should compete without any fear. PTI leader Sardar Mohammad Israel Qazi said that Tehreek-e-Insaf had succeeded in transferring power to the grassroots as per Imran Khan’s vision. PTI will achieve remarkable victory in local government elections and empower common people, he anticipated. Speaking on the occasion, PML-N leader Zahid Amin Kashif said that the democratic system cannot take roots without local elections. He said that the Muslim League will participate in the election with full vigour and zeal. It is the right of the people that their local problems should be solved at the local level. He expressed the hope that the democratic system will be strengthened by the LG election. SDG’s Coordinator for Azad Kashmir Syed Ali Hasnain Gilani highlighted the possibilities of achieving sustainable development goals in the region through local governments. He said that with the establishment of local governments, problems like hunger, food insecurity, health crisis, educational issues, lack of clean drinking water and sanitation, scarcity of dignified employment opportunities and environmental sustainability issues can be addressed amicably. Director CPDR, Ershad Mahmud said that the democratic process is not completed merely by the election of the Legislative Assembly, rather the citizens have to participate in the decision-making process. He said that the local government system plays a role in developing the democratic system and developing strong leadership. He said that after the election, there should be a discussion on the problems faced by the local bodies. Dr. Waqas Ali, the host of the conference, said that women and youth should have equal opportunities for development and becoming part of the political system so that they can play a positive role in the development of the State. He said that it is the responsibility of the political parties to give maximum tickets to young people and women. Social activist Irtaza Muhammad said that after the election, the elected members of the local government should pay attention to effective service delivery so that their credibility could be established. Faisal Jameel Kashmiri stressed that elections should be free, transparent and reliable. Common people should get more opportunities in this because they are the only ones who know the local issues and face the consequences of bad governance. Journalist Ms. Faiza Gilani highlighted the importance of women’s participation in the upcoming LG elections and said that women in AJK have been underrepresented as voters and in leading positions. She underlined the need to enhance women’s fair representation in all political structures and official bodies. A civil society activist Ms. Rukhsar Shafqat said that local government elections can be a vehicle for women’s empowerment. She lauded that 12.5 percent of seats have been reserved for women in all tiers of local government but societal pressures such as socio-cultural and religious practices do not allow women to participate with full vigour and zeal and achieve higher political status. PPP youth leader Murad Ali said that a large number of young people are eager to participate in the elections but they should also be provided with the necessary training so that they can be elected and given a chance to play their part in the development and good governance of the State. Raja Shahid Latif, a youth leader of the Muslim League, expressed his determination to participate in the election and struggle hard to bring change to his union council. He said that municipal election is their right and not a favour.