LAHORE: The Punjab local government law is set to undergo yet another change for increasing the number of vice chairpersons of district councils and deputy mayors in metropolitan and municipal corporations of the province.
The number of reserved seats for workers/peasants is also to be re-adjusted for some corporations and district councils through the same amendment.
A committee headed by Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah with MNA Hamza Shahbaz Sharif, the chief secretary and local government secretary, etc., as its members has finalised the proposal and forwarded it to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif for approval, Dawn has learnt.
The proposed amendment mostly focuses the Lahore metropolitan corporation, where it seeks to increase the number of deputy mayors from existing nine to 13 in the face of pressure from certain ruling party groups to ‘accommodate’ them in return for their political ‘struggle’ and ‘sacrifices’.
A PML-N official says the government desires to induct one deputy mayor against each National Assembly constituency in the provincial metropolis.
Govt wants to induct one deputy mayor against each NA constituency; Opp opposes move
There are 13 NA seats in Lahore.
Justifying the proposed readjustments, a member of the committee said that the rule for allocating one seat of vice chairperson or deputy mayor against one million population of the district or corporation had been made on the Election Commission’s insistence that 1998 census should be taken as the basis for considering the population of a district council or municipal corporation.
At a second thought the government contacted and convinced the ECP that a reasonable projection should be made about the increase in the population since 1998 and thus re-adjustment of the number of seats, he added.
About increase in the workers/peasants seats, he said for an industrial city like Faisalabad just two seats reserved for the workers were disproportionate to the strength of the labourers living there. According to him, the amendment will remove this anomaly and enhance representation of the workers in the local bodies.
The opposition and analysts are equally opposed to the proposed changes in the law, arguing the government should focus on empowering the local councils instead of just increasing the number of seats.
Opposition leader in Punjab Assembly Mian Mahmoodur Rashid says, “Afterthought is not a good lawmaking.”
Admitting that the ruling PML-N enjoys a killing majority in the house to bulldoze anything, he suggests that it should empower the people (local bodies’ representatives) if it has to amend the law.
Analyst Salman Abid fears increase in clashes between mayor and deputy mayors on (enjoying perks and privileges) with the increase in the number of seats, referring to the bickering between nazims and naib nazims in the now defunct local body set-up introduced by the Musharraf regime.
He does not see any positive results in the increase in seats reserved for labourers if their roles are not improved.
“What we’ve got from 33 representation of powerless women in the national and provincial assemblies that we should expect from a couple of equally powerless representatives of workers in municipalities where 18 authorities have already grabbed much of the local government’s roles and powers,” he said.
Published in Dawn, December 4th, 2015