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RAWALPINDI: Bureaucracy has started running the affairs of the local government in the Rawalpindi district as the Punjab government has sidelined elected local government representatives at the city and district levels.

The deputy commissioner is running the day-to-day affairs of the district council instead of the district chairman, while the chief executive officer is looking after the affairs of the Rawalpindi Municipal Corporation (RMC) in the presence of the mayor.

After formation of the PTI-led Punjab government, more than 120 union council chairmen in the district became nonactive and they are no longer involved in any policy making or development work.

PTI govt also stops development projects worth Rs600m that were launched through union council chairmen in Pindi

Interestingly, the provincial government also stopped development work worth Rs600 million in the city areas which had been launched through union council chairmen of the Rawalpindi Municipal Corporation (RMC).

The funds were generated by the RMC and under the law all the union council chairmen had to present the development schemes for their areas to the mayor.

But the chief engineer of the local government department wrote a letter to the civic bodies across the province asking them not to launch any work without permission of the provincial government.

In the city areas, an anti-encroachment drive was launched but Mayor Sardar Naseem was not consulted by the bureaucracy and it was being run and supervised by RMC Chief Executive Officer Shafqaat Raza who reports to the deputy commissioner.

On the other hand, the deputy commissioner is running the affairs of the district council, comprising rural areas.

The union councils of rural areas are still inactive and the citizens have to travel to the deputy commissioner and other offices for different works.

Similarly, assistant commissioners are active in the tehsils where elected members of the local government have nothing to do for solution of the civic problems.

The local government elections were held in 2015 but the district council chairman was never elected.

A senior official of the district administration said after the formation of the PTI government and reports to wrap up the local government system, the PML-N members stopped work in their respective areas and the bureaucracy stepped in to fill the gap.

On the other hand, the Punjab government failed to abolish the local government system due to political reasons.

After increasing tariffs of electricity and natural gas and launching the encroachment drive, the provincial government did not make any plan to wind up the local government system.

“There is no plan to change the local government system but we are working to improve it,” Law Minister Raja Basharat told Dawn.

He said changes were to be made to the current local government system which would take time. He said the government would soon introduce a system for resolving problems of the citizens related to police stations and the local government.

When contacted, Mayor Sardar Naseem criticised the PTI government and said the elected members were being ignored in policy making at the city and the district levels across the province.

“Local government elections were held on the directives of Supreme Court and these should not be abolished with a simple notification. People gave a mandate for five years and the elected representatives would challenge any illegal step by the PTI government.”

He said RMC’s Rs600 million development work had been stopped just as a political revenge while union council chairmen were restrained from working for the betterment of the citizens in their respective areas.

The mayor said the RMC had launched a number of development projects last year but the PTI government stopped them.

“The local government system was providing better facilities to the people at the grassroots level but the Punjab government is working on an agenda to pack up the system or run it through the bureaucracy,” he said.

Published in Dawn, December 5th, 2018