KARACHI: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) announced on Sunday that it will present an amendment bill for the Sindh Local Government Act, 2013, in the provincial assembly, assigning the responsibilities of urban areas to local government bodies.
In a press conference at his residence on Sunday, Sindh Assembly opposition leader Firdous Shamim Naqvi claimed that the local government act had failed and proposed an amendment bill for it. He was accompanied by PTI MPAs Haleem Adil Shaikh and Jamal Siddiqui, as well as other party leaders.
Naqvi said that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, Grand Democratic Alliance and all other political parties would be consulted before the amendment bill was presented in the Sindh Assembly, adding that they would approach the courts if the bill was not approved on the assembly floor.
Highlighting some of the proposed changes to the Local Government Act, he said that the amended bill would have direct elections for the mayor of Karachi and increased representation of women in politics. He added that the amendment would hold the Government of Sindh responsible for establishing and running schools as it currently does, while transferring the responsibility for running hospitals to local government bodies. Furthermore, he said, mass transit would also be put under the ambit of local government.
"The prevailing situation of the province's cities bear witness to the Sindh government's failure in solving the problems of its urban population," he asserted. "Karachi has been neglected, but its infrastructure needs to be improved in order to boost the national economy."
The opposition leader said that they would propose that the Provincial Finance Commission award be made compulsory in the amendment bill, so that the local government bodies receive their due share of the budget.
Speaking about Federal Information Technology and Telecommunication Minister Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui's announcement of resigning from the federal cabinet earlier in the day, Naqvi said that PTI leaders would meet Khalid and reconcile with him. "This proposed amendment bill is also a way to address his displeasure," Naqvi explained, adding that he and his fellow party leaders would support Khalid.
"We [the federal government] do not have the solution to the problems faced by Karachi's residents, as the provincial governments have control over the cities," he said. "We have made many efforts to strengthen the economy and we are consulting with China and Japan to secure sources of funding for the Karachi Circular Railway," he claimed.
Khalid, in his resignation announcement, had stated that it was difficult for him to keep holding the position of a federal minister when Sindh's people continued to face the same issues they did before MQM-P joined the federal government.
A controversial bill
Under the Sindh Local Government Act 2013, the democratically-elected provincial government scrapped the authorities awarded to the local government institutions. In the case of Karachi, this has been controversial, with the province under the rule of the Pakistan Peoples Party while the Muttahida Qaumi Movement holds sway in the local government bodies.
Many of the important departments, such as mass transit, education, waste disposal, health and building control, were taken away from the city's local bodies, while the restored commissioner system severely weakened the authority of the city mayor. With these changes, the opposition parties argue, the development of Sindh's cities has been neglected.
The act was met with much censure by the opposition parties when passed, and subsequent amendments have also been controversial. The last amendment bill, passed in January 2019 amid protests and a walk-out by the opposition in the Sindh Assembly, enabled the removal of a mayor, deputy mayor, chairperson or vice-chairperson from the local government by a simple majority if a vote of no confidence is passed against them.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 13th, 2020.