ISLAMABAD: The mayor of Islamabad has filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court accusing PTI legislators of interfering in the domain of the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI).

After the preliminary hearing on Monday, Islamabad High Court (IHC) Chief Justice Athar Minallah issued notices to the respondent authorities which include Adviser to the Prime Minister on Climate Change Malik Amin Aslam, the Local Government Commission headed by MNA Ali Nawaz Awan, the interior secretary and the chairman of the Capital Development Authority (CDA).

The court adjourned further hearing in the case until Feb 24.

Mayor Sheikh Anser Aziz adopted in his petition that the newly notified Local Government Commission, Mr Aslam and the CDA were creating obstacles to the functioning of the MCI because of which local elected representatives could not address grievances at the grassroots level.

IHC issues notices to respondents including adviser on climate change, Local Govt Commission, interior secretary and CDA chairman

The petition said that Islamabad is under the administrative control of the federal government exercised through the Ministry of Interior under the Rules of Business 1973. The people of other territories of Pakistan have representatives in three governments – local, provincial and federal – but the people of Islamabad are only represented in local and federal governments as Islamabad does not have an elected provincial government.

It added that the first local government elections in the Islamabad district were only held in the rural areas in 1980 under the Capital Territory Local Government Ordinance 1979. After the dissolution of the local government in the late 90s, there were no local government elections in Islamabad.

However, under the 18th Amendment Article 140-A was inserted into the Constitution, which reads: “Each province shall, by law, establish a local government system and devolve political, administrative and financial responsibility and authority to the elected representatives of the local governments.”

After the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) Local Government Act 2015 was passed and local government elections for the MCI were held on Nov 30, 2015, the Election Commission of Pakistan notified returned candidatesfor union councils and wards in a notification dated Dec 5 of that year, the petition said.

The aforementioned elections led to the formation of the MCI and the petitioner is its first democratically elected mayor, it said.

Some financial and administrative functions were to be devolved to the MCI after the elections but all these powers and functions have not been devolved under the act and most of the powers and functions – especially financial and administrative – are still being exercised by the CDA and the ICT administration, the petition said.

The mayor said in the petition that the “MCI is crippled in performance of its functions and powers and incurs blame and criticism by the public, the real stakeholders.”

The petition added: “The process of separation or devolution of powers to the MCI is further hindered by not appointing full-time officers in the MCI and mostly officers from the CDA and ICT are given additional charge of the chief executive officer.”

The petition pointed out that the federal government notified the Local Government Commission and appointed MNA Ali Nawaz Awan as its head. Mr Awan served as the opposition leader in the MCI and was elected to the National Assembly as a PTI candidate from NA-53 in 2018.

He was also appointed special assistant to the prime minister on CDA affairs.

Regarding interference in the MCI’s domain, the mayor said that the MCI approved a comprehensive plan for a municipal solid waste management system and after all the formalities had been completed and approved by the elected house, a notice for tender was published in national newspapers on Dec 12, 2019.

He said parties submitted technical and financial bids, which were scheduled to be opened on Jan 28, 2020.

However, Mr Aslam, the adviser to the prime minister on climate change, conveyed his decision to cancel the MCI’s tender notice while Mr Awan during the Local Government Commission’s first meeting on Jan 20 criticised the mayor for not paying sanitation staff on time and also recommended cancelling the solid waste management project.

According to the petition, sanitation staff were being paid by the CDA because the MCI does not have the funds or the relevant authorisation.

Mayor Aziz said he had done his “level best over the past many months and years to request various highest political and administrative forums and the respondents for the proper devolution of the powers and functions to the MCI but to no avail.”

He asked the court to pass an appropriate order in this regard as the matter is of great public importance since it relates to the functions and performance of the local government and pertains directly to the fundamental civil, economic, civic and social rights affecting the lives of Islamabad citizens.

Published in Dawn, February 4th, 2020