ISLAMABAD .: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday constituted a committee for devising the structure of local bodies within a week, besides directing it to finalise relevant recommendations for enacting appropriate legislation within a month.
The prime minister issued the instructions during a meeting on local government systems in Punjab, Balochistan and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, where the PTI was in power.
Among others, the meeting was also attended by chief ministers of the three provinces, provincial ministers and officials concerned.
A senior government functionary in the K-P government told The Express Tribune that the federal government’s bid to introduce a K-P-like LG system’ elsewhere was likely to be opposed by bureaucracies at the Centre and in provinces, especially Punjab.
According to him, bureaucrats of the Pakistan Administrative Service cadre, formerly the District Management Group, did not want the LG system to be implemented in letter and spirit — either in Punjab or elsewhere in the country.
Bureaucracy, he said, currently enjoyed overwhelming powers, rendering elected representatives dependent on civil servants in running the government affairs.
“If the LG system is implemented in Punjab, at the Centre or any other part of the country, bureaucrats will lose their importance. They don’t want this to happen,” he maintained.
The source reminded that at the outset, when the PTI wanted to introduce the LG system in K-P, it had encountered similar obstacles, and the system’s implementation was delayed by nearly two years.
The LG system was supposed to be introduced in K-P in 2013, but it was introduced in 2015.
“Unfortunately, bureaucratic practices (originating) from the colonial era are still in vogue. Previous PML-N governments in Punjab and at the Centre heavily relied on government servants, instead of strengthening LG institutions.
“Bureaucrats (who are opposed to the introduction of the LG system) are now trying to get close to us. We have to be very cautious.”
“The government,” he said, “will focus on empowering union and village councils in Punjab and Balochistan, like it does in K-P,” an insider said.
“Union and village councils are the LG system’s backbone. The system cannot work effectively unless these institutions are empowered to take and execute decisions at the local level.”
A press release issued by the Prime Minister’s Office quoted PM Imran as saying that the transfer of power at the grassroots level and empowering people in the real sense was the “main plank of the party’s reform agenda”.
He said: “The past practice of centralisation of power into a few hands … had not only deprived the people of any meaningful say in the government affairs, but also stripped the people of their right to have adequate resources for their development.”
The recommendations formulated by the committee constituted by the prime minister would be scrutinised before being presented in respective provincial assemblies, the statement said.
As part of its LG system strategy, the government has divided its initiative titled: “Empowering people at the grassroots” into four phases.
The first phase includes a complete review of the existing local government system in K-P with the inclusion of appropriate amendments to it.
In the second phase, a legal review of Punjab’s LG system was to be held. The third phase envisaged drafting a proposed blueprint for revamped local bodies system for provinces and Islamabad Capital Territory.
The last phase included finalising draft legislation to amend local government laws in the three provinces and the federal capital.
PM chairs meeting on Zaireen
The prime minister also chaired a meeting on Sunday on the security and facilitation of Zaireen visiting Iran and Iraq.
The meeting was attended by Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan, Minister of State for Interior Shahryar Afridi and other senior officials.
According to a press release, the prime minister observed that no effort should be spared in providing fool-proof security to the Zaireen.
He directed that a comprehensive action plan should be chalked out, in consultation with all stakeholders, within 48 hours for the security of Zaireen visiting Iran, Iraq and other holy places during Moharram.
The prime minister directed that immigration counters at the Pakistan-Iran border should be enhanced to facilitate Zaireen in expediting the immigration process.
He also directed that a permanent mechanism should also be evolved for streamlining operations of Zaireen in the future.
In this context, the prime minister directed the minister of state for interior to coordinate with the Balochistan chief minister and other stakeholders, including security forces and the Ministry of Religious Affairs, for ensuring maximum facilities to the Zaireen.
The prime minister also called for delineating a “comprehensive, time-bound action plan for outlining responsibilities” for regulating the matter.