ISLAMABAD: The Islamabad local government bill is all set to sail through upper house unlike the opposition it faced in the lower house of the parliament.
The Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Local Government (Amendment) Bill 2015 is scheduled to be placed before the Senate during its upcoming session.
On February 23, the National Assembly Standing Committee on Interior passed the bill with seven votes in favour to six votes in opposition.
Legislators belonging to the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) voted against the amendment that provides increase in deputy mayor seats in the Islamabad Metropolitan Corporation (IMC) from one to three.
Through a presidential ordinance, the deputy mayors’ seats were increased in the municipal body. On the basis of this ordinance three deputy mayors, all belonging from the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), have already been elected.
“There exists a broader understanding between the PML-N and the PPP, – which dominates in terms of numbers, the 104-seat Senate – that opposition will not unnecessarily create hurdles in the passage of government bills of not such prime importance for smooth functioning of the parliament,” said a senior PPP senator, who wished not to be named.
Election was already held and deputy mayors’ are elected, he said, the PPP would not support any move that would create unwarranted difficulty for the government.
The prime reason, he informed, was the PPP did not emerge as a significant stakeholder in Islamabad as a result of local government elections held in November 2015.
But, the situation was quite difficult at the time of passage of the ICT Local Government Bill, 2015, from the Upper House.
The Senate had challenged the non-party basis of the elections and introduced an amendment saying the elections would be held on party basis.
This amendment was later endorsed by the PML-N, when the bill was returned to the National Assembly for a fresh vote.
However, the PPP senator further said that the government had taken that specific legislation very casually.
Due to that casual behaviour, he said, the government itself made the mayor and deputy mayors’ elections held on February 15 controversial in legal terms.
The elections were held without any legal cover, as the ordinance that provides for three deputy mayors’ rather one, expired on February 11, while the election was held on February 15.
The government was required to get a timely extension in the ordinance from the parliament before the holding of the election.
But it managed to get an extension in the ordinance on the evening of February 15 from the National Assembly, only after the completion of the mayoral election process and the announcement of results by the district returning officer (DRO).
PPP Senator Saeed Ghani said the Senate would definitely ask the government that what forced it to increase the number of seats through an ordinance. He said the real question would be about the legality of mayor and its deputies’ election on February 15 in the absence of legal cover.
Ghani said such things would be discussed once the bill would be placed before the Senate.
On Tuesday last, the MNAs belonging to the PTI and the JI had questioned the wisdom behind increase in deputy mayors’ seats, saying it would financially burden the corporation in terms of extra non-developmental expenditures incurring to run the additional two deputy mayors’ offices.
A deputy mayor will be given perks and privileges equivalent to the federal government officer of grade-19.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 26th, 2016.
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