ISLAMABAD: Rana Sanaullah, a senior leader of the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), has warned the government that his party will resist attempts to change the Local Government (LG) system in Punjab.
Reacting to a statement by Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan that the new LG system would bring about revolution in the province, Mr Sanaullah said on Sunday: “PML-N will stand firmly against this law [Punjab Local Government Act, 2019] and will not allow anybody to steal people’s rights.”
In a statement, he claimed that even allies of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) had opposed the proposed LG system.
Mr Sanaullah said the government wanted to escape from LG elections, therefore it was introducing a new system, adding that the ‘incapable’ government was bent upon destroying the existing LG system in Punjab. “The government had promised to hold local government elections within one year,” he said.
The opposition leader said the ruling PTI had realised that people would not vote for it in the LG elections as its “incapability” and “inefficiency” had exposed before people. “They are afraid of elections and made people’s life miserable, therefore, PTI leaders cannot visit their constituencies,” he added.
He said despite having no majority in Punjab, the PTI wanted to enforce dictatorship-like government in the province. “PTI is sabotaging the entire local government system and subjugating the rights of people at tehsil level,” he said.
Terming the government’s move to introduce new local government act as a “conspiracy”, Mr Sanaullah said the act would bring political instability in the country.
Earlier on Sunday, Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said that the Punjab Local Government Act, 2019 would bring a revolution through solving the problems of the masses at their doorstep and would ensure availability of resources at the grassroots level.
In a tweet, the special assistant to PM said that the act was the fulfilment of a PTI government’s promise of transferring power to grassroots level and empowering the people.
In a function in Sialkot, she also said that under the new system people in Punjab’s other areas would not have to go to Lahore for getting their work done. “They will not need to go to Takht-i-Lahore as their problems will be solved at their villages under the new system,” she added.
On May 6, Prime Minister Imran Khan termed the proposed local government system to be introduced in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa “revolutionary” and said the time had come to defeat “vested interests and mafias”, who would “definitely resist the change”.
Presenting salient features of the new local government system in the two PTI-ruled provinces to journalists, he said they were introducing the village or Panchayat system in Punjab after experiencing its good results in KP during the party’s last government there and after studying the best local government systems in developed countries.
He had said nowhere in the world development funds were doled out to the members of parliament or provincial assemblies and the amount was directly provided to local governments.
Highlighting the main features of the proposed LG system, he said the elections at the village level would be held on a non-party basis as they did not want to divide the community at grassroots level so that people could make decisions on their own for the betterment of their area and prioritise their schemes after getting development funds.
The prime minister said there would be some 22,000 village councils to be called Panchayat councils in Punjab and some 4,000 in KP, adding that the elections at village and tehsil levels would help produce new leadership in the country. After introduction of this system, he said, all villages would become “self governing”.
He said there would be neighbourhood and tehsil or town councils in big towns and cities and the election of tehsil nazim would be held directly and on a party basis. Mr Khan said there would be direct elections of city mayors on the pattern of London, New York and Paris. The elections at the tehsil level and for mayors would be held on a party basis, adding that the mayor’s election would be a big exercise as the candidate for mayor office in Karachi would have to seek votes from nearly 20 million people.
After his election, the prime minister said, a mayor would appoint his own cabinet comprising professionals and technocrats having experience in town planning. “Our cities have become ruins. Lahore was once an organised city,” he said, adding that the mayor would be responsible for the uplift of cities and all civic agencies and departments like Water and Sanitation Agency would function under him.
Published in Dawn, May 13th, 2019