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PA passes LG bill as opposition walks out

LAHORE, Aug 21: The Punjab Local Government Bill 2013 was passed on Wednesday in the provincial assembly amid opposition’s boycott.

As Law Minister Rana Sanaullah tabled the bill, the opposition and a treasury member presented amendments to it but they were rejected. The opposition members wearing black arm bands walked out in protest while the treasury passed the bill in their absence.

Opposition leader Mahmoodur Rashid reiterated his party’s (PTI’s) stance and rejected holding of local body elections on non-party basis, saying it was against the basic spirit of the devolution of power and an attempt to take things back to the Zia era. He said power rested with bureaucracy in the local government system and the elected representatives would have no practical role in it.

The opposition also announced it would file a petition in the court challenging holding of the local body polls on non-party basis and no powers to elected members.

Earlier, opposition members Sardar Waqas Hasan Mokal, Sardar Shahabuddin Khan and Waseem Akhtar submitted a note of dissent on the 35-page report of the special committee consisting of treasury and opposition members.

The report ignored the opposition’s suggestions on direct election of chairmen, vice-chairmen and joint candidates of municipal committees.

Under the local government law, there will be indirect election for municipal corporations’ mayors and deputy mayors as joint candidates. A municipal corporation having population of more than one million shall have two deputy mayors and thereafter there shall be one additional deputy mayor for every additional million.

A mayor and nine deputy mayors of the Lahore Metropolitan Corporation will also be elected ‘indirectly’ as joint candidates.

The opposition’s concern of horse-trading in the election for chairman and mayor slots has also not been addressed. Now under the law, the local government, other than an authority, shall consist of such number of directly and indirectly elected members – mayor, deputy mayor or deputy mayors, chairman, vice-chairman as is mentioned in the first schedule. If there is more than one member in any category of seats in a local government, the election shall be held on the basis of proportional representation.

If the chairman of a union council is elected as mayor or deputy mayor or as a chairman or vice-chairman of the district council, he shall cease to be the UC chairman and the chairman’s seat shall stand vacated. The chairman shall be the executive head of a union council.

The law says if the office of the chairman or vice-chairman of an authority for any reasons falls vacant during his or her term in office, the (Punjab) government shall appoint a new chairman or the vice-chairman of the authority with in 30 days.

The age of a candidate for any local government office should not be less than 25 years and he will not be a dual national. A ‘Punjab Local Government Board’ will be constituted consisting of a chairman and five members. The board shall be a body corporate having perpetual succession and a common seal with power to acquire, hold and transfer property, movable and immovable.

The law says the government shall in a prescribed manner delimit a municipal committee into wards for election of members of the municipal committee on general seats. There will be separate education and health authorities in the local government.