LAHORE, July 23: Changes are constantly being made in the draft of the new local system prepared by the PML-N Punjab government without touching its basic concept of withdrawing devolution, ending the district governments’ status of independent units and dismantling the existing district management structure.
“The draft is constantly being rehashed. It will be tabled in the assembly for adoption after an approval by the chief minister and we expect some more suggestions from him. Additionally, we do expect some more changes from the assembly’s standing committee concerned to which the introduced bill will be referred,” said a senior official who preferred anonymity.
But, he said, the basic concept of wrapping up the local government system independent of the provincial government would not be changed. With the new set-up, the existing management system in districts would be wrapped up, reintroducing the office of the deputy commissioner probably through an executive order.
He said work on restoring the office of deputy commissioner too had been started. But the office would not be like that of the pre-2001 period as revival of executive magistracy required amendments to CrPC, which the federal government alone could do.
A copy of the draft of the new law obtained by Dawn on Tuesday prove what the official said is true.
However, its preamble looks like the sugar coating of a bitter bill. It says the law is being introduced: “To establish an elected local government system to devolve political, administrative and financial responsibility and authority to the elected representatives of the local governments; to promote good governance, effective delivery of services and transparent decision making through institutionalised participation of the people at local level; and, to deal with ancillary matters.”
The main features of the law include dividing the urban and rural areas which were united by Gen Musharraf (retired) through its existing Local Government Ordinance 2001 for unified development. However, the new law says it did not work and the rural areas lagged behind in development.
The draft law says the local governments to be established under this Act shall function within the provincial framework and shall faithfully observe the federal and provincial laws.
In the performance of their functions, the local governments shall not impede or prejudice the exercise of the executive authority of the government.
“The Government shall, by notification in the official Gazette, divide a District into urban area and rural area.
For purposes of this Act, the government shall, by notification, declare a local area consisting of Lahore District as the Metropolitan Corporation, rural area in a District, as Union Councils and a District Council; and urban area in a District, as a Municipal Corporation and a Municipal Committee.
“The local governments constituted under this Act shall have Metropolitan Corporation for Lahore District and a Municipal Corporation for such urban area as the government may notify, a Municipal Committee for such urban area as the Government may notify, a District Council for the rural area of a District other than Lahore and Union Councils for rural areas of the District; and District Education Authority and District Health Authority for a District, including Lahore.
“The Government may declare an integrated urban area having a population less than 50,000 to be a Municipal Committee and specify in the notification the number of the directly and indirectly elected members of the Municipal Committee.
“A Union Council shall consist of directly elected Chairman and Vice Chairman, as joint candidates, five other directly elected members on the basis of adult franchise, and following indirectly elected members on the reserved seats by the directly elected members including the Chairman and the Vice Chairman -- one each woman and peasant members and one non-Muslim member where there are 500 non-Muslim voters or more registered in the Union Council.
“The entire Union Council shall be the constituency for election of the Chairman and the Vice Chairman while each Union Council shall be divided into five wards for direct election of five members of the Union Council.
“There shall be a District Council in a District, other than the Lahore District, which shall consist of the Chairmen of all Union Councils in the District, and shall include the following members indirectly elected on the reserved seats by the Chairmen of the Union Councils -- such women members, not exceeding 15, as the Government may notify on the basis of population of the District Council, such peasant members, not exceeding five, as the Government may notify on the basis of population of the District Council, such non-Muslim members, not exceeding five, as the Government may notify on the basis of population of the non-Muslims in the District Council.
“The Metropolitan Corporation shall consist of 200 members directly elected on the basis of single ward and adult franchise, and the following members indirectly elected by majority of the directly elected members present and voting -- 25 women members, 10 each worker members and non-Muslim members.
“A Municipal Corporation shall consist of the members directly elected on the basis of single ward and adult franchise and the following members indirectly elected by the majority of the directly elected members present and voting -- such number of women members, not exceeding 15, as the Government may notify on the basis of population of the Municipal Corporation, such worker members, not exceeding five, as the Government may notify on the basis of population of the Municipal Corporation and such non-Muslim members, not exceeding five, as the Government may notify on the basis of non-Muslim population of the Municipal Corporation.