RAWALPINDI: Development projects outlined by the local government in Rawalpindi for the ongoing fiscal year have ground to a halt after the provincial government barred them from issuing any tenders.
The move by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led provincial government has given rise to apprehensions and concerns amongst the Rawalpindi Metropolitan Corporation (RMC) — which is dominated by the rival Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) members.
Such is the situation that most elected representatives have stopped showing up at their metropolitan corporation offices because they feel they do not have any explanation to offer to the people over why no developments were taking place in the city.
Last month, the Punjab Local Government department’s chief engineer had sent a letter to all district authorities in the province seeking details of all development schemes outlined for the ongoing fiscal year.
In the letter, the chief engineer raised several objections and posed questions over approved development schemes and had barred the local government from issuing tenders as part of the development process.
This brought all development process under the municipal corporations to a virtual halt.
Rawalpindi Sardar Naseem told Daily Express that the RMC had finalised development schemes for the city worth over Rs70 million.
Moreover, he said that these schemes were to be funded using the RMC’s own funds rather than relying on money from the Punjab government.
However, he said that the development process had ground to a halt because the Punjab government had barred them from issuing tenders so that they can hire contractors to build these projects.
“This has caused the problems faced by the people to intensify,” Naseem said, adding that the restriction imposed by the provincial government was unwarranted and unreasonable.
When contacted, the Punjab Local Government Secretary Saif Anjum initially claimed he knew little about the matter and sought time to check what had happened. Despite repeated attempts since Anjum could not be contacted about his findings.
Pending local government reforms?
The move came to light after Prime Minister Imran Khan had in early September directed the PTI-led provincial government to undertake reforms in the local government structure of the province.
The current metropolitan corporations were formed after directions from the Supreme Court to hold local body elections in 2014. Elections for local government in Punjab were held in 2015 over multiple phases but it wasn’t until the penultimate day of 2016 that Rawalpindi elected Naseem as mayor and marked the beginning of the local government there.
Local governments in the province are thus due to complete their terms in November 2019.
In September, Imran had assured that the local government setups in the province will be allowed to complete their term as it geared up to roll out an upgraded version of the local government system they had devised for Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P).
“Given the chances of unnecessary litigation and agitation from other political parties, the PTI government is of the view to let the incumbent local governments complete their respective tenures,” a senior cabinet member who attended the meeting had told The Express Tribune.
During the high-level September meeting, it was further decided to further shorten the current local government unit – the union council – on the basis of population for better management and decentralisation of power.
“Punjab is the most populous province of the country and it will require further devolution of the current administrative units for empowering people at grassroots level,” the cabinet member had said.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 3rd, 2018.
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