RAWALPINDI: The delimitation of union councils will begin on Sept 26 as the Punjab government starts working on local government elections in the province, a meeting was told on Sunday.

The meeting was held at the commissioner’s office, with Commissioner Saqib Zafar and Local Government Director General Rasheed Kamalur Rehman in attendance.

Under the Local Government Act 2019 passed by the Punjab Assembly, local governments in the province were abolished on May 4 and commissioners were asked to look after municipal corporations in their respective areas as administrators.

Punjab govt to start preparing for local govt elections in province

The provincial government did not announce new elections because the delimitation of union councils under the new law had not been carried out. It has decided to begin the process now.

Initial suggestions from candidates and residents will be received from Sept 26, objections will be received Sept 27 and hearings on objections will be held from Sept 28 to Oct 14. The final list will be released on Nov 2.

The meeting was informed that direct elections will be held for village councils in the province, because of which the land revenue department will present maps for rural and urban areas separately during the delimitation process.

Mr Zafar directed the four district administrations of the division – Rawalpindi, Attock, Chakwal and Jhelum – to complete the demarcation of land in their respective union councils under the local government act.

He asked revenue officials to prepare initial proposals for delimitations by Sept 25 and said that they should not include disputed areas between districts during the demarcation of union councils.

Rural areas that are expected to become part of urban settlements in the next seven to eight yearswill be considered urban local areas, he added.

Mr Rehman said that the department would bifurcate urban and rural areas in the initial report under section 8 of the local government act.

He said that all city areas will be demarcated, union councils in urban and rural areas will be categories and areas will be renamed.

The commissioner will be the delimitation officer at the divisional level, and deputy and assistant commissioners will be district and assistant delimitation officers, respectively.

A senior district administration official told Dawn work will begin on Monday and all urban and rural areas will be defined under new delimitations.

It will be difficult to define urban and rural areas in Rawalpindi, he said, because the defunct Potohar Town, which used to considered a rural area, was converted into an urban area by the last PML-N government and charged taxes levied on urban areas.

Most residents opposed this move and local PTI leaders and activists began a campaign to bring back the area’s rural status. The official said that last months, some local union council leaders submitted a formal application to the Punjab law ministry to bring back the rural status for Potohar Town’s 14 urban union councils.

He also said that areas on the border between Rawalpindi and Islamabad would not be resolved under this delimitation, explaining that there are undefined limits of Rawalpindi and Islamabad, particularly in Bahria Town and the Defence Housing Authority (DHA).

He said the district administration has to define the limits of Bahria Town and DHA so that the election commission can complete voter lists before the local elections.

Published in Dawn, September 16th, 2019