RAWALPINDI: The Rawalpindi Municipal Corporation and the District Council have been dissolved and the divisional commissioner has taken charge as administrator following the promulgation of the Punjab Local Government Act 2019, which repealed the Punjab Local Government Act 2013.

The Punjab Assembly passed the act last week, but it did not become law until Saturday when it was signed by Governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar. According to a notification, the law has been implemented from May 4.

Divisional Commissioner Joudat Ayaz took charge on Sunday as administrator, replacing former mayor Sardar Naseem.

Divisional commissioner takes charge as administrator, replacing mayor, deputy commissioner already heading council

There is no district council chairman so far, as the election for this post has been pending for three years. Deputy Commissioner Chaudhry Mohammad Ali Randhawa has already held additional charge as the administrator of the District Council.

The government has not made plans to set up a new local government soon, so the bureaucracy will run the affairs of civic bodies.

The civic bodies were constituted under the 2013 act after local government elections on Dec 5, 2015. The mayor, deputy mayor and union council chairmen took oath on Dec 31, 2016.

The last local elections were held on the basis of political parties, for the first time in Pakistan’s history. The PML-N emerged as the single largest party in the RMC and District Council as a result.

According to an Election Commission official, the tenure of local government members begins the day they take their oath of office. Under this rule, the tenure of the local government would have ended in 2022. As of now, the outgoing members and mayor have only completed two years and five months in office.

Former mayor Sardar Naseem Khan has called the promulgation of the 2019 act a night-time attack.

“The PTI-led government issued the notification late at night, and it is a night attack on the people’s mandate,” he said.

He said he, along with mayors of other cities, have challenged the 2019 act in the Lahore High Court’s principal seat and the court has sought comments from the Punjab government on May 9, but the government is hurrying to replace local government members because more than 58,000 of them belong to the PML-N.

He added that he and elected members would also petition the Lahore High Court Rawalpindi bench separately in a day or two.

“Union council chairmen and the mayor will jointly move an application about their constitutional right to be allowed to complete their term,” he said.

Meanwhile, the bureaucracy will continue to run the affairs of the District Council, which has been headless for four years. Although the PML-N won a majority in the council, a chairman and vice chairman were not elected. In the absence of a district chairman, the deputy commissioner was looked after the council.

A PML-N leader explained that there were two reasons that the election for district chairman was not held. Elections were not held in a few union councils in the district, he said, and the PML-N was not particularly interested due to differences between two of the main party leaders in the district.

“This was to be a tricky election for the PML-N as many union council chairmen openly supported estranged PML-N leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan in the general election but they had to follow the instructions of the party leadership under the political parties act and they would not able to support the other than party’s nominee,” he said.

Published in Dawn, May 6th, 2019