Pindi’s elected local councillors refuse to go quietly

Former mayor promises to mount a legal challenge in the LHC this week

Our Correspondents May 07, 2019
Lahore High Court. PHOTO: EXPRESS

RAWALPINDI: Elected representatives of the local government in Rawalpindi have threatened to go to court again over the new local government bill passed by the Punjab assembly last week even as provincial ministers argued that the newly introduced system would devolve powers to the grassroots.

Separately, the Punjab government has directed the secretaries assigned to over 3,000 union councils in the province to return to their parent department.

After the Punjab Assembly passed the Punjab Local Government Bill 2019, earlier in the week and Governor Chaudhry Sarwar signed it into law on Saturday, the local government members elected in Rawalpindi said that they will mount a legal battle over the early dissolution of elected municipal bodies.

In this regard, an application will be filed in the Lahore High Court (LHC) to suspend the notification regarding the dissolution of municipal bodies. The petition challenging the dissolution of the local government is expected to be filed this week.

Local government elections had been conducted in the province in December 2015 on party lines following orders from the Supreme Court (SC). However, municipal bodies remained inoperative for a year, starting work as late as in January 2017.

Hence, their tenure was supposed to run until December 2021. However, after the Punjab government managed to eke the new local government law through the provincial assembly, a notification dissolving the bodies was issued by the Local Government and Community Development Ministry secretary issued a notification dissolving the local government bodies.

Former Rawalpindi mayor Sardar Naseem Khan, who had joined an earlier petition against the government’s attempt to scupper the elected local government bodies in the province, vowed to fight the latest law through legal channels.

He added that they also intend to present their case in the ‘public’s court’, but was not clear on how they exactly intend to do that.

He, however, was confident that they will be able to get the courts to suspend the notification, adding that they were adamant on completing their prescribed tenure.

Commenting on the new municipal system introduced by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government, Naseem stated that it was impracticable.

Empowering grassroots

Meanwhile, Punjab Law and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Raja Muhammad Basharat told a corner meeting in areas of the Rawalpindi Cantonment Board (where an independent local government system operates), said that the Punjab government was keen to develop Rawalpindi.

Flanked by other PTI officials from the city, including former federal health minister Aamer Mahmood Kiani, Basharat contended that the new municipal system will transfer powers to grassroots of society.

Commenting on the slow development of Rawalpindi since the PTI government took over, he said that funds for the development of the city were released at the same time as funds were released for development in the rest of the province.

The provincial minister added that they too were elected representatives and that they were committed serving the public by solving their issues at their doorsteps. Kiani explained that their primary aim was to take the country forward. He added that the health cards — which was one of the flagship projects which he worked on while steering the health policies of the country — will be delivered to the public within the next few months.

He added anything was possible if the leadership was determined to resolve issues.

Secretaries recalled

Soon after the municipal system was dissolved in Punjab, the services of secretaries of as many as 3,000 Union Councils (UCs) have been withdrawn by the local government department.

Those officials who had been appointed as secretaries from other departments have also been asked to report back to their related departments while the commissioners, deputy commissioners and assistant commissioners have taken charge as administrators of municipal corporations.

Moreover, the nameplates of mayors, deputy mayors, union council chairmen and vice-chairmen have been removed and their offices have been locked since Friday.

Further, it has also been decided to review all political appointments made in the departments over the past three years.

Further, the district commissioner (DC) has ordered a crackdown against all those illegal constructions which had been halted owing to political influence.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 7th, 2019.


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