Local govt bodies: Boosting technocrat numbers is vital, SC told

Assistant Advocate-General filed concise statement

Hasnaat Malik April 02, 2016

ISLAMABAD: The Punjab government has informed the Supreme Court that enhancement of the number of technocrat members in metropolitan and municipal corporations and district councils of local government was necessary for providing technical expertise to elected members of local bodies.

Assistant Advocate-General Mudhasir Khalid Abbasi, who appeared on behalf of the secretary, local government, Punjab, filed a concise statement in the case of the Sindh government against the Feb 10 Sindh High Court judgment, wherein recent amendments in the local government law whereby secret balloting was replaced with a show of hands for electing the slots of mayors, deputy mayors and other local government representatives in the province was declared void. The top court will resume the hearing on Monday.

According to the Punjab government’s statement, the local governments, formed under Punjab Local Government Act of 2013 (PLGA 2013), while performing their municipal functions, have to provide certain municipal services, which included water supply, sanitation, solid waste collection, construction of bridges, roads, expressways, flyovers and underpasses, building control and regulation etc.

“In performance of such functions, technical expertise within the house of elected members is essential and for such purpose technocrat members have been introduced and their number in local government is determined on the basis of population of the local governments.”

About the proportional representation, the reply stated that the election process for the reserved seats in the local government was amended to eliminate the vice of horse- trading, adding that Section 18-A of PLGA-2013 in fact gave political identity to a candidate for local government office running for reserved seats in local governments on the basis of proportional representation.

It also stated that it was in line with constitutional provisions pertaining to elections for seats reserved for non-Muslims and women in the National Assembly and provincial assemblies in accordance with Articles 51 and 106 of the Constitution.

It was submitted that insertion of Section 18-A through the second amendment was brought about with intent to promote democracy in its true perspective at the local government level, adding that this amendment would not only eradicate immoral practices but also strengthen the political process in the province.

The Punjab government contended that the concept of the election for reserved seats in local governments under PLGA 2013 on the basis of proportional representation was neither an innovation nor alien to the scheme of duly recognised mode for general elections in the country. Similarly, the same method of election seats was adopted on reserved seats in the local governments of K-P.

Regarding the election via open division, the statement said that in the Constitution, there were express provisions including a procedure for holding of elections to National Assembly, provincial assemblies, cabinet, president, prime minister and chief ministers but it nowhere provides the manner to hold election to the local governments.

The Constitution by way of Article 140-A (2) read with Article 219 (d) commands that the election to the local governments shall be held by the Election Commission of Pakistan, however the law according to which such election is to be conducted “is PLGA 2013 made and promulgated under Article 140-A of the Constitution which provides a complete procedure for holding such elections”.

The local government has been recognised as third tier of the government of superior courts of Pakistan. However, there is no constitutional provision specifying the executive authority for the third tier of the government, rather the Constitution by way of Article 140-A confers this power upon the province to establish a local government by law explicitly determining the executive authorities for respective local government.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 3rd, 2016.


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