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LAHORE: The alleged lack of interest by the Lahore mayor in releasing development funds to union councils (UC) and indifferent attitude towards Municipal Corporation (MC) members may give a tough time to the ruling PML-N in its stronghold of Lahore in the upcoming general elections.

Most UC chairmen from the PML-N passed over two years by holding in-house protests against the mayor for not listening to their problems.

The local body elections for 274 union councils of Lahore had been held on Oct 31, 2015. But the new system remained non-functional till the end of December 2016 due to various issues related to distribution of powers, transfer of funds, shortage of offices and other facilities, elections for mayor/deputy mayors. The first session of the MC was finally held on Jan 1, 2017.

“Since January 2017, we just received a grant of Rs2.5 million once from the local government department, and nothing from the mayor,” deplores Malik Abdul Sattar, chairman of UC-73, Sanda.

“If the party faces any problem in general elections in Lahore, it will be due to the mayor,” he said.

UC chairmen say the 15 months of local bodies system in Lahore only witnessed scuffles for power -- between the mayor and deputy mayors and UC chairmen and vice chairmen. They accused the MC of not utilising the Rs6 billion grant provided by the provincial government for launching several development schemes.

PML-N UC chairmen complain they couldn’t carry out development

“A meagre amount out of the Rs6 billion was used by the MC. A large sum is still lying unused in the mayor’s account. Had the MC distributed it among 274 UCs of Lahore, people of the city would have enjoyed a lot of facilities,” Sattar explained.

“Thanks to local MNA and MPAs who provided us some funds to complete small schemes in our UC.”

He said for the first time the UCs appeared powerless as they did not receive funds directly in their accounts.

“We are receiving only Rs300,000 a month that is spent on payment of salaries, honoraria for councillors, utility bills, stationery and other expenses,” he claimed.

The MC also received scores of resolutions by members regarding small schemes in nearly 15 sessions. However, majority of them were not entertained.

“A majority of resolutions were thrown in the dustbins after sessions,” Sattar added.

Chaudhry Aamir Sohail, chairman of UC-73, Rajgarh, was of the view that the MC did not even provide him with an office.

“We are utilising a room at a nearby office after Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa) officials forcibly locked our original office. They consider the UC office Wasa property. I went to the mayor and submitted applications, but to no avail,” he claimed. He said he could not get several tasks related to patchwork, streetlights etc completed in his UC since there was no support from the MC.

UC-94 Sodiwal Chairman Chaudhry Afzal accused the MC of doing nothing except earning commission from development schemes.

“If 40 per cent of the Rs2.5 million grant to our UC goes to the pockets of corrupt MC officials as commission, what development can you expect? When we complained, the mayor expressed ignorance,” he claimed.

Talking to Dawn, a senior official confirmed the non-utilisation of Rs4 billion to Rs5 billion of the Rs6 billion MC funds.

“I am sure Rs4 billion to Rs5 billion are still lying unused in the MC accounts,” he alleged. “This happens when the top slots are filled by non-political people.”

However, local government Secretary Shahid Nasir Raja rejected the impression stating that the mayor had distributed funds among the UC chairmen.

“I think the mayor has utilised Rs6bn by distributing it among all UC chairmen,” he told Dawn.

He said the development schemes in several UCs were delayed due to late issuance of orders.

When contacted, Mayor Mubashir Javed refused to comment on the situation, and expressed anger over the queries related to UC chairmen’s complaints.

Published in Dawn, April 16th, 2018