LAHORE: All deputy commissioners, designated as the heads of District Transition Teams of their districts, have been informed through a notification by the Punjab Local Government and Community Development (LG&CD) Department that the defunct union councils (UCs) would discontinue public services from Friday.
The notification issued by the LG&CD secretary also stated that the services rendered by the union councils up to April 30 would be subject to ‘audit and administrative scrutiny’.
“All the 3,454 defunct union councils of Punjab, which had been constituted under the Punjab Local Government Act 2013 and continued under Section 316(2) of the Punjab Local Government Act 2019, shall discontinue providing public service with effect from May 1,” Dr Ahmad Javed Qazi, the secretary of Punjab LG&CD Department, told The Express Tribune.
He said that the offices of defunct UCs will cease to exist whereas the rented offices will be vacated from May 1.
“Offices in government-owned buildings shall be renamed as field offices of the (succeeding) local government.”
The secretary further explained that the tasks of the defunct functionaries would be taken over by the next elected local governments.
All staff members, regular or contractual, previously working with the defunct UCs would report to the LG&CD deputy directors of their districts after April 30 in accordance with court orders and deployment plan, he said.
“The new elected local governments will also be tasked with various administrative duties related to registration of births, deaths, marriages and divorces.”
Dr Qazi also directed the officers concerned to consult the notified chart of succeeding local government constituted under the Punjab Local Government Act 2019 for details.
He said copies of the act would be available in the offices of all deputy commissioners.
“We are striving to digitalise and automate our functions and hence citizens shall soon be able to report online the births and deaths in the province,” he added. After approval from the provincial assembly, elections of neighbourhood and village councils will be held on a non-party basis, while voters would be able to elect the mayor of their district through direct voting.
As per the amended act, “455 local governments will be established for the implementation of development schemes across Punjab.”
Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar and his cabinet have decided to delay the local bodies’ elections owing to the ongoing health emergency.
Official sources revealed that the new local government system will have district, tehsil and village councils.
Commenting on the development, Lord Mayor of Lahore Colonel (retd) Mubashir Javaid argues that a good local government system was in place since 2013 as per the law.
“On May 4, 2019 the system was terminated and the people who were elected were dismissed.” Speaking to The Express Tribune, he said, at least 33 petitions were filed in the high court against the decision but it had not conducted hearings from November 16 onwards.
PML-N Lahore Additional Secretary Information and Former UC chairperosn Amir Khan said the new LG system has been adopted from Khyber-Paktunkhwa, whose culture and issues are different. Nevertheless if the system has to be implemented it should be implemented across Pakistan, but it is not even functional in Sindh, he said.
“The problems of the citizens will increase due to the decision of terminating union councils,” he predicted.
The chairperosn of the Narowal District Council said that in May last year the government of Punjab dissolved all the local governments in the province, which is an ‘unconstitutional act’.
“In the past we had witnessed the presidential powers, but it is the first time in the history of Pakistan that provincial legislators have qued against the legitimate LG representatives,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2020.