LAHORE: The district assembly on Thursday decided to issue show-cause notices to various officials of the Metropolitan Corporation Lahore (MCL) under the Punjab Employees Efficiency and Discipline and Accountability (Peeda) Act for not obeying the lawful orders of the elected local bodies’ representatives, whose offices were restored by the Supreme Court of Pakistan on March 25 this year.

The assembly members, in a session convened by the speaker, Deputy Mayor, Nazir Ahmad Khan Swati, in the presence of the leader of the house, Lahore Mayor retired Col Mubashir Javed, also unanimously decided to approach the Punjab chief secretary and the local government department secretary, asking them to issue show-cause notices to the officers of the department posted in the MCL as municipal officers (MOs) and the chief corporation officer, under the Peeda Act.

“Since the local bodies’ institutions across Punjab have been restored by the apex court in March, we are legally bound to perform our duties. Therefore, all acts of anyone working as administrator/head of these institutions, other than the elected members, are absolutely unlawful and unconstitutional. So, we will also write to the chief secretary to issue show-cause notice under the Peeda Act to the Lahore commissioner for not handing over the charge of the mayor’s office to me despite the apex court orders,” Mayor Mr Javed told Dawn after attending the session.

“I cannot take action against the commissioner or any other DMG [now Pakistan Administrative Service] officer or the local government department officers posted in the MCL. That is why I will write to the chief secretary and the local government secretary for the purpose,” he explained.

The officers who are likely to receive notices directly from the Lahore mayor include the MCL Food Director Ayub Chaudhry, Personal Staff Officer (PSO) to mayor, Mian Waheed and Assistant Muhammad Waqas. The copies of the notices would also be sent to the office of the Supreme Court registrar.

CS to be asked for action against PAS officers concerned

Contrary to the past experience, the elected members faced no resistance from the government in holding the assembly session on Thursday at the MCL’s Jinnah Hall, known generally as the Town Hall. However, the security staff and the officials concerned locked the offices of mayor and others before start of the session. Though some members insisted on breaking the locks and entering their offices, the mayor stopped them from doing so. He told them that holding the session at the Town Hall was their legal right, but breaking locks of the offices would be an illegal act.

According to session’s agenda, the members were to discuss various issues, including the MCL’s total income and expenditure for the fiscal year 2020-21, income and expenditure after March 25, 2021, annual budget detail (FY 2021-22), municipal infrastructure, development and non-development schemes/expenses (2020-21), budget proposals received etc.

However, none of the agenda items could be discussed at the session as the members were not provided the relevant record by officers concerned, who were conspicuous by their absence, to the chagrin of the mayor and other members.

“This house condemns the government for not implementing the SC verdict on local bodies institutions. We also condemn the officers for not obeying orders of this house and not attending the session,” Mr Swati said on the occasion.

The members also chanted slogans against the government for bulldozing and weakening the institutions and depriving the elected representatives of their right to work for the masses at the grassroots level.

“Who are you to order the MCL officers to dismantle structures of the poor people? Who are you to take decisions after the March 25?. Remember, all your acts are unconstitutional and unlawful. And the day is not far when you all will be in the grip of law,” roared Lahore Mayor addressing the members.

Terming March 25 SC verdict historical, he appealed to the apex court to take notice of the situation and order action against all those flouting its decision.

The mayor said since a contempt of court petition had also been lodged in the apex court, the elected representatives should keep highlighting the March 25 verdict wherein a three-member bench, headed by the chief justice of Pakistan, had ordered restoration of the local government institutions in Punjab, terming section 3 of the Punjab Local Government Act-2019 ultra vires to the constitution.

“For reasons to be recorded separately, constitution petition No.48 of 2019 is allowed and section 3 of the Punjab Local Government Act-2019 is declared to be ultra vires to the constitution and the local governments as were existing in the province of Punjab prior to promulgation of the said section stands restored and it shall complete its term in accordance with law,” Mr Mubashir read out the court order.

Neither the MCL administrator (Lahore commissioner), nor the chief corporation officer were available for their comments.

Talking to Dawn, PSO to mayor Mian Waheed argued: “Since a detailed judgment is yet to be issued by the apex court, the government is not in a position to challenge the SC decision through an appeal petition,” adding that in such a situation the officials were in a fix that whether they should obey the orders of the mayor or those of the district assembly or the provincial government.

Published in Dawn, June 18th, 2021

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