PESHAWAR: A Peshawar High Court bench has directed the provincial government to respond to petitions filed by the opposition parties against the May 2019 drastic changes to the local government law over the alleged violation of the Constitution.
After holding a preliminary hearing, Chief Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan and Justice Ijaz Anwar set the May 27 deadline for the filing of that response.
One of the petitions was jointly filed by leader of the opposition in KP Assembly Akram Khan Durrani and parliamentary leaders Sardar Hussain Babak of the Awami National Party, Sardar Mohammad Yousaf of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Sher Azam Wazir of the Pakistan Peoples Party and Lutfur Rehman of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl.
They requested the court to declare that the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Local Government (Amendment) Act, 2019, through which widespread changes were made to the KP Local Government Act, 2013, is in conflict with the Constitution, especially articles 4, 8, 9, 17, 25, 32, 37 and 140-A.
Another petition was jointly filed by the Jamaat-i-Islami leaders, including provincial chief Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan and MPA Inayatullah Khan.
The petitioners claim that the impugned amendments to the LG law were meant to devolve some powers of the district council and district nazim to the tehsil government and return the rest to the provincial government. They said the changes were made to restore the government’s control over many devolved departments and abolish district tier of the local government system.
Petitioners insist amendments violate Constitution
The third petition was filed by president of the Local Council Association Himayatullah Mayar, who has served as the district nazim of Mardan twice.
The petitioner requested the court to declare the abolition of the district tier of the LG system against Article 140-A of the Constitution and the law.
He also sought a court ruling that the financial authority and responsibility of local governments in view of Article 140-A of the Constitution can’t be taken away by the province.
Lawyers for petitioners included Qazi Jawad Ehsanullah, Ghulam Mohiuddin Malik and Zahid Sultan Minhas.
Qazi Jawad said Chapters III and IV of the Local Government Act, 2013, were deleted through the impugned Amendment Act.
He added that by removing those chapters, the government had removed the entire edifice of the representative and elected system of the local government at district level.
The lawyer contended that after the amendment, local government did exist at district level, it would neither be elected nor representative, or even political, and there would be no administrative and financial control of the people in the said local government at district level.
He said that administrative and financial control would be exercised by non-elected officials on district level.
The lawyer said many departments, which were earlier part and parcel of the district local government system under Section 12 read with First Schedule of the LGA, had been devolved to the local government at tehsil level.
He said the drastic changes were made abruptly in complete ignorance of the parent law.
The lawyer said another anomaly caused by the Amendment Act was the introduction of Section 21 whereby the office of the tehsil council chairman was provided to be the one elected directly through party-based polls, while members of the tehsil council were to be elected on non-party-based polls.
He said mutually contradicted procedure of the electing chairman of the tehsil council through party-based polls and its members through non-party-based polls would encourage horse-trading, blackmailing and corruption when it came to the impeachment of the council chairman.
Published in Dawn, March 21st, 2021