Prime Minister Imran gives roadmap for local govt elections in Punjab

Updated May 06, 2019

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Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks to senior journalists in Islamabad. — DawnNewsTV screengrab
Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks to senior journalists in Islamabad. — DawnNewsTV screengrab

Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday announced that two-tiered elections will be held across Punjab to form the new municipal system in the province.

Talking to senior journalists in Islamabad days after the Punjab Local Government Act 2013 was repealed in favour of the new Punjab Local Government Act 2019, the premier said that direct elections will be held in 22,000 village councils in Punjab, adding that "candidates will not have to be from political parties to contest polls".

He said that the exercise and the resultant system would "enable development at a lower level and also bring up new leadership".

Also read: Backward areas to be brought at par with developed cities, says Punjab CM

The prime minister said that during Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf's (PTI) previous term in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, it had formed councils in villages, which were "very popular among the people", and the same "system will now be adopted in Punjab".

He said that Rs40 billion have been allocated for villages, which will be passed down directly to village counsellors so that they do not have to wait for federal or provincial governments to secure development funds.

Direct elections will also be held at tehsil level, he said, noting that "management at district level has become harder due to expansions."

In cities, direct elections will be held for mayor, Prime Minister Khan said. The mayor will constitute a cabinet of professionals who will help in the city's management. The premier further said that in cities revenue collection will be done by local governments.

He lamented that Karachi, Lahore and other urban cities in Pakistan could not be developed because they could not generate enough revenue. Prime Minister Imran cited Tehran's example, where he said "management had not been affected despite sanctions because of a strong local government system."

When asked how much of the taxation authority would be given to the city's government, the premier did not specify but said that "if cities cannot collect taxes, the [local government] system will not be viable."

Flanked by Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, KP Chief Minister Mehmood Khan, party's former secretary general Jahangir Tareen and others, the prime minister said that "Rs140bn will be allocated for local bodies in Punjab," adding that "this is the first time that a government was devolving power."

"When military governments [were in power], they focused on municipalities. On the other hand, democratic governments put an end to municipalities and instead give the money that was supposed to be spent on development [of cities and villages] to MNAs and MPAs," he said.

The premier rubbished the notion that the introduction of local governments was a step towards a presidential system of government, and said: "I don't know where these [rumours] are coming from."

"Our government's number one priority is to hand over the governance to the people," he explained. "All over the world, local bodies govern on a grassroots level."

The prime minister pointed out that "MNAs and MPAs are not handed over development funds any where in the world". He admitted that the system will be met with resistance even from within his party but declared that "change is only successful when you defeat vested interests".