Minorities allowed to vote for reserved, general seats

Updated November 06, 2019

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Cabinet approves changes to LG law, permitting election through political party or electoral panel.
Cabinet approves changes to LG law, permitting election through political party or electoral panel.

LAHORE: The provincial cabinet on Tuesday approved amendments to Punjab Local Government Act, permitting local bodies’ elections to be held through political party or electoral panel and allowing religious minorities to vote for reserved as well as general seats.

Held under Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, the amendment allowed returning officers to announce the results and in case of any complaint, election tribunal will decide the matter under the election act.

The meeting accorded approval to amendments to Punjab Village Panchayats and Neighbourhood Councils Act, 2019. Delimitation of local areas under Punjab Demarcation of Local Areas Rules, 2019 and establishment of succeeding local governments under Punjab Local Government Act, 2019 were given approval as well. As many as 455 local governments would be constituted in the entire province.

The meeting approved revision of Punjab Municipal Services Programme and local governments would complete roads repair and maintenance. The cabinet approved heritage and urban regeneration programme for the promotion of tourism in Lahore Fort and its buffer zone. The royal privacy (khalwat khana) and other areas of the fort would be restored. The hanging electricity wires would be removed along with the restoration of historically-important places around the fort. A museum would be established in the Lahore Fort with a soft loan worth $25.8 million which would be borrowed from the French Development Agency.

Cabinet approves changes to LG law, permitting election thru’ political party or electoral panel

The meeting decided to declare Lahore and Nakchivan city of Azerbaijan as sister cities and signing of an MoU was also approved in this regard. This would help promote economic cooperation, exchange of delegations and launch of joint projects.

The meeting approved the establishment of South Punjab Institute of Science and Technology in DG Khan along with the endorsement of decisions made in the 19th provincial cabinet meeting and 16th meeting of cabinet standing committee on finance and development.

Punjab Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Affairs Ijaz Alam welcomed the decision of granting voting right to minorities in local bodies’ elections on general seats and added that the chief minister won the hearts of the minorities by giving them the right of double voting and the Punjab government fulfilled their longstanding demand.

Addressing the meeting, the chief minister said: “The PTI government is the custodian of minorities’ rights adding that historic steps have been taken in Punjab to protect their rights and every decision is being made in consultation with the cabinet.” Provincial ministers, advisers, special assistants, the chief secretary and others attended the meeting.

Later, briefing the media, Information Minister Aslam Iqbal said the government was bringing about such a local government system in which problems of the masses would be resolved at their doorstep and the [LG] institutions would fully be empowered.

He said from 2002 to 2008 the mayor used to hold office of Chairman LDA but former chief minister Shahbaz Sharif was made chairman LDA simply by making a single amendment and its jurisdiction was stretched up to Kasur, Nankana Sahib and Sangla Hill.

“It’s above reason how come a chief minister wanted to become chairman LDA. Our government will delegate all powers and authority to the mayor and it manifests a big change and PTI government will empower the local government representatives in its true sense,” he said.

Published in Dawn, November 6th, 2019