LAHORE, Nov 20: Declaring illegal the renaming of streets, roads, underpasses and crossings by district and tehsil administrations, including the city district government of Lahore, Punjab local government department has ordered these bodies to immediately stop the practice.

“Changing names of public places is a very serious matter which the district and tehsil administrations are not acknowledging. The local councils cannot change the names in the first instance under the law and what they are doing is totally illegal,” an official said here on Tuesday.

He said it was sole prerogative of the local government department to change the names and that too after inviting public objections to such proposals. The local councils were not following the procedure, he added.

Changing names might have serious repercussions, including sectarian, religious, national or local. And this could best be avoided by seeking prior public opinion which was not being done, he said.

Though the direction sent to the district, tehsil and town administrations did not specify any particular violation of the law the most recent example is stated to be the renaming of 26 Lahore streets and crossings by a sub-chapter of the Dilkash Lahore Committee.

The decision to change the names has been much debated but as per the department’s directions and the related rules, it was illegal to do so.

The directive says that an elaborate procedure has been laid down for renaming of roads, streets and chowks under the Punjab Local Councils (Road and Street) Rules, 1981.

Instances have come to the notice of the government where district governments as well as TMAs are changing the names without observing the procedure and obtaining approval of the competent authority. This practice is absolutely against the law and rules, and should be stopped forthwith, it adds.

It says the practice should be avoided in future and the districts and TMAs must refer such proposals to the department for chief minister’s approval, after completing codal requirements, including inviting public objections/suggestions through public notices in newspapers.

The Punjab Local Councils (Road and Street) Rules, 1981, covered by the Punjab Local Government Ordinance, 2001, say, “Every proposal for the assignment of a name to a new road or street or for change in the name of an existing road or street shall be published for inviting objections and suggestions in such manner as an urban local council may determine and the final proposal shall be made after taking such objections and suggestions, if any, into consideration.”

The urban local council shall forward its final proposals to the government for approval and no proposals shall be implemented without the express approval of the government,” the rules also say.

It also specifies as to whose name could be given to a street, road or crossing. And this specification questions the recent renaming of some streets and crossings in Lahore.

The rules says: “No road or street shall be named after a person unless he is: founder of the nation, and a person who was in the forefront of the freedom movement and took prominent part in the creation of Pakistan, a past national personality with unblemished record of service to the nation, a hero who laid his life in the defence of the country, a living or deceased head of a foreign state friendly towards Pakistan, a foreign national in respect of whom permission has been granted by the federal government, a famous Muslim character of history and a person who has rendered distinguished service to the urban council.

No road or street shall be named after a person if he is a sitting member of the urban or local council or if he holds any office under any local council, the federal or provincial government or any public authority or is a public representative.

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