Rift widens as UC chairmen protest in Punjab

Sit-in held against proposals of sharing chairmen’s signatory powers with vice chairmen


Imran Adnan November 14, 2017
Lahore Mayor Colonel (retd) Mubashir Javed. PHOTO: EXPRESS

LAHORE: The ongoing rift in the local government has widened as a large number of union council (UC) chairmen protested against the proposal of sharing their signatory powers with their vice chairmen. The sit-in was held in front of the Lord Mayor’s office on Monday.

They warned authorities that they would not give up any power granted under the Punjab Local Government Act 2013. If the Metropolitan Corporation Lahore (MCL) or the Punjab government tried to create any exception in the act, the chairmen warned of challenging it in court of law.

Speaking to The Express Tribune, UC-233 Chairman Syed Imran Ali Shah said although there was no dispute between him and his subordinate, the demand of acquiring powers for vice chairmen to sign bank cheques was unjustified.

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He indicated that the government had formed two committees to resolve this crisis. These committees have proposed that vice chairmen should sit in deputy mayors’ assemblies which are going to be constituted on Tuesday (today).

Punjab Chief Minister’s Advisor and UC-107 Chairman Khawaja Ahmad Hassaan said all nine zones of Lahore had been notified and the government had agreed to give some role to vice chairmen in the deputy mayors’ assembly. To avoid the lengthy procedure of amending the Punjab Local Government Act 2013 through the provincial assembly, it was proposed that these committees would deliberate and finalise a workable solution, which would be approved by the district assembly later on.

“I believe it is the best way to resolve this issue as local government representatives will decide their own fate through the democratic process without any foreign intervention of the provincial government,” he underscored.

He said another proposal was that chairmen would have to keep their vice chairmen in the loop when making any financial transaction in their union council. “Most vice chairmen have complaints that they did not know what was happening in their UC,” he added.

UC-233 Vice Chairman Shahbaz Ali Jafri alleged that most chairmen were corrupt and making money on development schemes. He added that chairmen and vice chairmen jointly contributed funds during election campaigns and won on the same vote. But in the new local government system, vice chairmen had no powers except for a ceremonial role. “We have no say in the development process. We cannot help our voters in solving their day to day problems. If the government does not want to give us any power make it clear, we are ready to resign from this so-called public office,” he said.

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Deputy Mayor Wasim Qadir said the vice chairmen’s demands were not unjustified, but the current crisis was a result of lacunas in the Punjab Local Government Act 2013. “In addition, there would hardly be a few members in the MCL who understood the new local government system.” He added the MCL high-ups should take some guidance from people who have run local governments in the past.

Lahore Lord Mayor Colonel (retd) Mubashir Javed may be the only person who believes there was no tug-of-war among union councils. Speaking to The Express Tribune, he said there was some confusion among some chairmen and vice chairmen otherwise there were very harmonious relations among all representatives of the local government. He, however, agreed that there were some lacunas in the Punjab Local Government Act 2013, which he believed would be removed with the passage of time.

Earlier, vice chairmen registered a similar protest a couple of weeks ago and now it was being heard that councillors were teaming up to take  to the streets for powers.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 14th, 2017.

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