LAHORE: As Prime Minister Imran Khan on his visit to Lahore on Sunday asked the party leaders to make preparations for the local government elections in Punjab, its key ally PML-Q has proposed that the government should first amend the law to remove certain flaws before announcing its schedule.
“The PML-Q wants that before going for the local polls, the government should consider reviewing the new law to plug the loopholes,” PML-Q leader Moonis Elahi told Dawn on Sunday.
He said his party would persuade its coalition partner to bring in an amendment draft of the new local government law in the Punjab Assembly to address its concerns.
Under the new law (the Punjab Village Panchayats and Neighbourhood Councils Bill 2019), he said, administrative expenses might go up six times because of increase in the number of union councils. He reiterated the party’s earlier stance that there were several inherent flaws (in the new local government bill) such as taking already a significant number of 4,000-plus units (union councils) to 24,000-plus village councils/ panchayats.
The PML-Q MNA said KP (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) and Punjab could not be compared because of difference in size of population.
Moonis Elahi said the PML-Q might not go for the local polls if ‘such flaws’ persisted.
Discussing proposals regarding the polls with party’s provincial senior vice-president Chaudhry Salim Baryaar at his residence, Mr Moonis said: “People remember our tenure because we had empowered the masses in the true sense of the word.”
On the other hand, the PML-N says the ruling PTI will not take chance of holding the local elections in Punjab in the current situation when it sees the writing on the wall.
“The PTI is embroiled in internal rifts and a forward bloc has emerged. PM Imran Khan only tried to stick to his ‘hollow slogan’ of devolving the power through local elections. The PTI knows that it at the lowest ebb of its popularity for what it has done to the masses. As if inflation, price hike and unemployment were not enough to make people’s lives miserable, flour crisis surfaced,” PML-N deputy secretary general Attaullah Tarar said.
Speaking to Dawn, he recalled that the PTI could not field its candidates in most union councils in the province in the last local polls.
“If it goes for election now there will be hardly any candidate interested in PTI tickets. The PTI is in disarray and Imran Khan knows this and will keep delaying the elections,” Mr Tarar said.
In May last year, around 58,000 local representatives in Punjab were sent packing after the governor signed the Punjab Local Government Bill 2019. Commissioners and deputy commissioners have been posted as administrators.
The PML-N sarcastically said the ‘credit’ for depriving 52pc population of Pakistan of local representatives went to the PTI government.
Under the Punjab Village Panchayats and Neighbourhood Councils Bill 2019, tehsil councils in rural areas and municipal councils and corporations in urban areas will be the first tier of the new system. The second tier would be panchayat councils in rural areas and neighbourhood councils in urban areas.
Tehsil and municipal councils will be elected through party-based direct elections but elections to panchayat and neighbourhood councils will be held on a non-party basis under the new law.
For the first time, funds will be directly transferred to panchayat and neighbourhood councils. All allied institutions and departments such as the Lahore Development Authority, the Traffic Engineering and Planning Agency and the Water and Sanitation Agency would function under local governments.
Published in Dawn, January 27th, 2020