The Punjab government plans to extend its deadline for issuing an election schedule for local governments by another year, having failed to formulate a new system, draw up boundaries for electoral wards or compile voter lists since it set the deadline a year ago.
The Local Government and Community Development Department, after consulting with the Law and Parliamentary Affairs Department, will soon send a proposal to the chief minister for an amendment to Section 179-A of the Punjab Local Government Ordinance (PLGO) 2001, an official close to the development told The Express Tribune.
The Punjab Assembly approved an amendment to the same section in October 2010 which gave the government exactly 365 days to notify a schedule for local polls to the Election Commission. Now it plans to extend that date by another six months to a year, the official said.
The amendment bill approved last October also gave the government the power to appoint interim administrators exercising the power of nazims, naib nazims and union councils under the local government setup that expired in February 2010.
The official said that the chief minister should request the governor to promulgate an ordinance to incorporate the fresh changes to the Punjab Local Government Ordinance 2001, but the situation between the two was tense because of recent disagreements over administrative issues and appointments.
Farrukh Altaf, former district nazim of Jhelum, said that it was clear from its failure to make any preparations that the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government had no intention of holding local polls. “They are for more interested in the next general elections,” he said. Altaf said that the PML-N did not want to share executive power, nor state resources, with local governments.
“They fear that they have no candidates for local bodies and elections will expose them,” he said.
He added that local representatives would take administrative powers and money from the Punjab government. “Right now they can exercise these powers and resources as they please,” he said.
Danial Aziz, the architect of the previous local government system and former chairman of the National Reconstruction Bureau, said that the Punjab government, by further delaying local polls, was hindering the development of a healthy democracy in the country.
Punjab government spokesman Senator Pervaiz Rashid was unavailable for comment.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 2nd, 2011.