LAHORE: “Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s (PML-N) claim of its deep affiliation with the local government system is a joke,” asserted Punjab Minister for Law, Parliamentary Affairs and Local Government Raja Basharat.
He pointed out that the previous government took four years to make the system functional. “PML-N passed the local government act in 2013, conducted elections following Supreme Court orders in 2015 and made the bodies functional in 2017.”
On Wednesday, the minister highlighted that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government had given sufficient time to the opposition to propose suggestions and amendments to the Punjab Local Government Bill 2019. He added that the PML-N decided not to avail the opportunity.
Congratulating Prime Minister Imran Khan and Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar over the passage of the local government bill in the provincial assembly, Basharat said that the new law reflected the PM”s vision of empowering the public at the grassroots level.
Responding to a media query, the minister said it was the constitutional right and duty of the treasury to create legislation and the opposition was free to go to the courts. Basharat added that the entire process was concluded under the law and the opposition was given sufficient time to provide its input.
He hoped that the matter would not linger on in courts and that people would be able to elect their own representatives within the anticipated time. “Contrary to the past, the new local government law will transfer real powers to the lower level as the Neighbourhood Councils (NHCs) and Panchayats Bill 2019 was also passed.
Opposition expresses reservations over new LG system
“The new law will end the overlapping of powers of development bodies such as LDA, TEAPA and WASA etc.” The minister said this was unlike the previous system which centralised power under lord mayor.”
Basharat said that the condition of educational qualification was removed in the new act and party-based elections were introduced at the upper level. Meanwhile, non-party based elections were introduced for NHCs and Panchayats.
“Each local government will get funds directly from the province with zero interference from the district administration. Moreover, there will be no district council or union council to interfere with their autonomy. Elections for new local governments will be conducted within and powers will be transferred to the appointed administrators. He said PTI’s Punjab government had reached another milestone of bringing change by introducing a powerful local government law.
Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister’s Spokesman Dr Shahbaz Gill said that for the first time in the history of Punjab, powers will be transferred to the grassroots level in a true sense. He said that the new local bodies system has ended the “monarchy” of PML-N in Punjab.
In a response to Hamza Shahbaz’s statement, Gill said that instead of creating a hue and cry, Hamza should answer for the money he has allegedly plundered. He said that rule of those who have exploited the poor has now ended.
“The stories of the former ruling family are the talk of the town. The people of Punjab understood who the godfathers of the land-grabbing mafia were. He said that woes of Hamza Shahbaz are genuine and the masses will not let them escape again with looted money.
He said that Local Government Bill 2019, presented by the government in the Punjab Assembly session, had been approved and sent to the governor for approval. Under the new law, present local bodies’ institutions will be dissolved after the signature of governor. “The government will conduct local bodies’ elections within the year and the Punjab government will appoint administrators.”
He said that instead of 35 district councils, 138 Tehsil Councils will be established. “Municipal committees will be formed in major cities, beside Metropolitan and Municipal Corporations. Panchayat and Mohalla Councils are being setup by dissolving the union councils system.”
Gill highlighted that there are 3,285 union councils in Punjab which will be replaced by 22,000 panchayats and mohalla councils. Under the new system, the provincial government is bound to give one-third of its budget to the local government. In addition, Rs40 billion will be given directly to the panchayat level.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 2nd, 2019.