LAHORE: In order to get empowered in the local government system, an active group of general councillors has formed the Councillors Ittehad in 13 districts of Punjab to launch a campaign against the provincial government, The Express Tribune learnt on Sunday.
The local chapter of the Councillors Ittehad has also called a convention on December 8 to formulate a strategy to register their protest. The councillors from both ruling and opposition parties, including Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), will take part in the protest.
A general councillor from Rawalpindi and Councillors Ittehad Punjab President Sajjad Abbasi said the provincial government had introduced the local government system but had not empowered representatives of local governments.
‘Councillors’ Ittehad’ gives Islamabad mayor 10 days to resolve issues
"All elected local government representatives have ceremonial roles and actually have no say in the development process. Only chairmen have the authority," he added.
Abbasi underscored that the provincial government had made the entire local government system ineffective by snatching its powers. In the previous local government system, general councillors' role was similar to vice chairpersons, he said, adding that the Punjab Local Government Act, 2013 had curtailed all their powers.
Councillors Ittehad Punjab General Secretary Muhammad Tufail Khokhar asked what was the purpose of the current system when the local governments could not solve problems at their level.
The local government representatives were struggling for empowerment but the provincial government was not paying attention to their demands, he said. "We demand the government give us the right to vote in metropolitan corporations, municipal corporations and committee chairmen's elections as they had the right in the previous local government system. When the government accepts this demand, our right to move a no-confidence motion against the mayors, chairmen and vice chairmen will automatically be restored as well," he elaborated.
Khokhar said the Councillors Ittehad had been activated in five of the nine zones of Lahore district.
The Councillors Ittehad staged protests several times in Multan and Rawalpindi districts. Recently, members of the Ittehad protested at the Melody Chowk in Islamabad to mark the completion of two years of the Islamabad Metropolitan Corporation, Khokhar said. The local government elections were held in November 2015 but representatives were still struggling for empowerment, he added. "The current local government system is not democratic by any definition. The government has robbed it of all its powers and left the system to expire so that people lose their confidence in the most effective tier of the government."
Rift widens as UC chairmen protest in Punjab
Earlier, chairpersons and vice chairpersons were fighting for powers at the union council (UC) level. After a sit-in in front of the Lahore Metropolitan Corporation in favour of their demands, the government temporarily settled the dust by giving vice chairpersons the responsibility to check union councils' accounts.
However, the situation could turn ugly again because chairpersons were reluctant to share their authority with their deputies, said UC-233 Vice Chairman Shahbaz Ali Jafri. He added that there was a trust deficit between UC chairpersons and vice chairpersons over the use of public funds. "Some vice chairmen have alleged that chairmen were making money out of development schemes and that's why they were reluctant to share power with their vice chairmen."
Published in The Express Tribune, December 4th, 2017.
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