ISLAMABAD, July 29: Civil society representatives on Monday demanded that local government elections should be held in the urban areas of Islamabad without further delay.

Presenting a ‘Citizens charter of demands’ at the Sustainable Development Policy Institute, they said in the federal capital only rural areas were divided into union councils.

Residents of urban areas should also have the right to elect their representatives.

Naeem Mirza of Aurat Foundation said at least 33 per cent representation for women, 10 per cent for labour and five per cent for non-Muslims should be reserved in the local government.

He said the strength of a union council should not be less than 18 members.

Mr Mirza called upon provincial governments to fulfil their constitutional responsibilities and ensure representation of excluded groups in the political process.

He said the proposed bills tabled in provincial assemblies had restricted citizens’ participation.

The draft bill of Punjab is not acceptable in its current form.

He said the basic principle of representation had been violated by fixing limited number of seats and indirect selection on reserved seats, particularly for women and minorities.

Naseer Memon of Strengthening Participatory Organisation suggested an end to rural-urban divide and underlined the need for establishing reconciliatory bodies, community boards and other sub-structures at the union council, tehsil and district level.

“The existing structure of provincial finance commission must be revised on indicators like poverty, gender gap, geographic backwardness and development gap with at least 30 per cent budget allocated for women the at district level,” he said.

Sajid Mansoor Qaisrani of Sungi Development Foundation said in 2002 as many as 40,000 women were elected in local bodies’ elections from all over the country but in 2005 the number decreased to just 26,000.

“If we will not strengthen the system, participation of women will further decrease,” she said.

Sadia Sharif from the Sustainable Development Policy Institute called for the introduction of an independent local government system.

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