The government apparently might have just forgotten to make the local government functional in the federal capital set in place a few months ago with an aim to providing solutions to residents’ problems at their doorsteps.
There was much fanfare at the time the parliament adopted necessary legislation to pave way for the first-ever local government elections in Islamabad.
Unfortunately the local government is still inactive – thanks to bureaucratic hurdles in devolution of powers, distribution of assets and transfer of functions to the elected representatives, despite lapse of the time period mentioned in the Local Government Act 2015.
The ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), it appears, has also lost interest to force bureaucracy to surrender their powers in favour of the people’s representatives.
Section 130 of the ICT Local Government Act 2015 that deals with succession and devolution of powers, under the transition provisions, clearly mentions a period of 180 days to complete transfer of functions, assets and liabilities to the local government, since promulgation of the law.
The bill was promulgated on August 4, 2015 after President Mamnoon Hussain signed it.
Since then, over eight months have passed but there is no mentionable progress over the matter and the government has yet to notify devolution of powers as well as transfer of functions, assets and liabilities.
Mayor meets PM
The representatives have now openly started blaming the powerful bureaucracy for delays in making the local government functional.
Worried over the situation, elected mayor of the city Sheikh Ansar Aziz recently met Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif requesting him to direct smooth and timely completion of this cumbersome exercise.
Not only premier, Aziz also held meetings with the interior minister and the president to discuss the issue.
“It’s true that I recently met the prime minister and the interior minister. Hopefully, the issues will be sorted out soon,” Aziz said, while talking to The Express Tribune.
Sources close to the mayor’s office claim Aziz was perturbed over the state of affairs as in the absence of delegation of required powers, he could not formally execute his wisely-prepared plans about city and its residents.
When contacted, Riffat Javed, Islamabad’s deputy mayor, said functions and powers were clearly defined in the local government act and there existed no confusion – as some bureaucrats were claiming – over the matter.
“A transition committee headed by an additional secretary of the interior ministry and having representation from the CDA, the CADD, and mayor’s office is swiftly sorting out pending issues,” Javed said, while expressing hope it would be finalised soon.
He said initial working drafts had also been prepared by the committee, which now required final approvals.
Above all, Section 29 of the local government act [Term of Office] provides that first meeting of a local government shall be held not later than 30 days from the day on which names of its members are notified.
The Election Commission of Pakistan notified the names of returned candidates and mayor and three deputy mayors in January and February 2016 respectively.
But even the first meeting has yet to be held.
Talking about delays with respect to the timeframes given in the local government act, Centre for Civic Education Executive Director Zafarullah Khan, said such delays would not have any repercussions.
He said Article 254 of the constitution – “failure to comply with requirement as to time does not render an act invalid” – condoned such delays.
“All the constitutional and legal shortcomings and delays occurred due to the negligence of the bureaucracy and politicians are covered through this article,” Khan lamented adding there was a need to make such delays time bound.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 13th, 2016.