Punjab asked about powers granted to local bodies

Lahore mayor says he is bypassed, deprived of funds

Our Correspondent January 12, 2019

ISLAMABAD: The top court on Friday asked the Punjab government to explain what powers have been conferred to members of local government in the province.

This was asked as a two-member bench of the Supreme Court (SC), comprising Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar and Justice Ijazul Ahsan, heard a case filed by Lahore Mayor Colonel (retired) Mubashar Javed on the powers of local government representatives.

During the hearing, Justice Ijazul Ahsan stressed the need for formal legislation which transfers powers to the mayors.

CJP Nisar said that it was important to ask the government of Punjab for a written response to resolve this issue definitely, adding that the court cannot decide anything unless everything is kept under a lid.

Justice Ijazul Ahsan remarked that the provincial government still holds powers and the mayor cannot be given these powers immediately. He also stressed for devising a mechanism to transfer powers to local government representatives.

During the hearing, Lahore Mayor Col Javed argued that it took him seven months to get towns converted into zones.

“The people ask me about streets [repair] and lights,” he added, noting that given how powerless he was to do anything about it, he could not answer his constituents.

Col Javed’s counsel told the court that order letters are not written to the mayor, instead, they are exclusively sent to the staff. He added that 45 officers were transferred without taking him into confidence.

He further claimed that he took the raised the revenues of the truck yard from Rs820 million to Rs920 million. Despite this, the officer of the yard was transferred without taking him into confidence.

Col Javed said that he had been assured that the transfer would be reversed but it has yet to be done. He further lamented that apart from wages and money to pay the essential bills, they are not being provided with any money to carry on developmental work.

CJP Nisar asked Col Javed to file an application listed the powers he seeks and further suggested him to amend the application which is being heard.

The court also sought an answer from the Punjab government on the request of the mayor. The hearing was adjourned indefinitely.

SC directs for demolishing oversized farmhouses

The top court on Friday directed the Capital Development Authority (CDA) to demolish farmhouses built on areas larger than the stipulated 12,500 square feet. However, the court directed to exempt the patio from demolition, lest it damages the farmhouses.

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The CDA was further directed to charge Rs8,500 per square foot from the owners of such agro-farms as regularisation fees for the patio.

This was decided by a two-member bench of the Supreme Court (SC) led by the Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Mian Saqib Nisar.

As the hearing started on Friday, CDA’s lawyer asked the court’s permission to refer the matter to the civic agency’s board.

CJP Nisar, though, rejected this suggestion, noting that it was the court which had previously set the amount for the penalty apart from setting a size for agro-farms at 12,500 square feet.

Now, the only issue was the construction of the patios in the farmhouses.

In this case, the CDA lawyer urged the court to impose a fine but requested that it should be limited to 25 per cent.

The CJP suggested that the CDA allow agro-farm owners to pay the fine in instalment for those who cannot pay it as a single payment.

CDA Director told the court that the civic authority has thus far raised around Rs105 million in revenue owing to the fine imposed by the court.

The CJP directed that the fees to regularise verandas will be set at Rs8,500 per square feet. The CDA should take Rs5 million upfront while the remaining sum can be paid in instalments over 18 months.

The CJP further remarked that despite paying the regularisation fees, agro-farm owners will not be allowed to build a cover for their patios. 

Published in The Express Tribune, January 12th, 2019.

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