PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Wednesday issued a notice to the provincial advocate general asking him to appear before it to respond to the petition against amendments to in the local government law.

Five opposition leaders in the provincial assembly had jointly filed the petition saying the drastic changes made to the local government law in May this year were in conflict with several constitutional provisions.

A bench consisting of Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth and Justice Abdul Shakoor Khan observed that as vires of law were challenged, it was necessary that the advocate general should appear before it and respond to the petition on Sept 24.

The petition is jointly filed by Opposition Leader in KP Assembly Akram Khan Durrani and parliamentary leaders of the Awami National Party, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Pakistan Peoples Party and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl.

Opposition parties have challenged amendments to Local Govt Act

They requested the court to declare that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Local Government (Amendment) Act, 2019, through which changes were made to the KP Local Government Act, 2013, are in conflict with the Constitution, especially its articles 4, 8, 9, 17, 25, 32, 37 and 140A.

The respondents in the petition are the provincial government through its chief secretary, secretary of the provincial assembly, and secretaries of local government and law and parliamentary affairs departments.

Qazi Jawad Ehsanullah, lawyer for the petitioners, said under Article 140A of the Constitution, every province should establish a local government system and devolve political, administrative and financial responsibility and authority to the elected representatives of the local governments.

He said through the impugned Amendment Act Chapters III and IV of the parent Local Government Act (LGA) 2013 were deleted.

The lawyer said by removing those two chapters, the government had in fact removed the entire edifice of representative and elected system of local government at district level as well as at level of complete urban city as one whole of district and city district government, which was earlier provided from sections 11-20 of the parent law.

He said after that amendment, local government at district level would neither be elected nor representative or even political and there would be no administrative and financial control of the people in that local government.

The lawyer said the administrative and financial control would be exercised by unelected officials at the district level.

He said many departments, which were earlier part and parcel of the district local government system through Section 12 read with First schedule of the un-amended LGA, had been devolved to the local government at tehsil level.

The lawyer said the drastic change and amendment had been made abruptly in complete ignorance of the parent law.

He said another anomaly, which had been created through the impugned Amendment Act, was the introduction of Section 21 whereby the office of the chairman of the tehsil council had been provided to be directly elected through party-based polls, while members of the tehsil council would be elected in non-party-based polls.

The lawyer said mutually-contradicted procedure of electing chairman of the tehsil council through party-based polls and its members through non-party-based polls would encourage horse-treading, blackmailing and corruption when things would come to the impeachment of the chairman by the council.

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2019