LG polls by next March even if SC rejects govt’s review plea

Published August 2, 2021
In this file photo, banners of political parties are displayed in Lahore during a local government election. —  Azhar Jafri/White Star
In this file photo, banners of political parties are displayed in Lahore during a local government election. — Azhar Jafri/White Star

LAHORE: The Punjab government expects that the much-awaited local government elections will not go beyond March, even if the Supreme Court rejects Punjab government’s review petition against the apex court’s decision in favour of the old local government bodies.

The Punjab government had dissolved the local bodies’ structure after enacting the Punjab Local Government Act, 2019. The old local bodies’ representatives approached the court and the Supreme Court eventually restored the local bodies, declaring their dissolution as unconstitutional and saying that they should be allowed to function and complete the tenure. The detailed judgement was issued recently and the Punjab government went into a review appeal, stating that it would be very difficult to restore the old local government institutions as the process involved massive administrative and financial complexities.

Since the local bodies, created under PLGA-2013, have their legal term till Dec 31 this year, the Local Government & Community Development (LG&CD) department seems confounded as it is now supposed to undo all the structural changes to the local governments introduced under PLGA-2019 – and then restore them to the current position within a few months.

While the Punjab government is now awaiting the Supreme Court’s response to the review appeal, the LG&CD department has constituted transition committees and sought two weeks time for the transition.

The tenure of local bodies restored by SC ends on Dec 31

In the new set-up after the dissolution of the PLGA-2013 local governments, an LG&CD department senior official told Dawn that the department was currently running Rs60bn development schemes across the province.

“Following the detailed judgement of the Supreme Court, the payments to the contractors (executing the development schemes) have been stopped.

“The local government department is now waiting for the Supreme Court’s decision to see whether it accepts the review appeal or not. If the petition is admitted, then the restoration of previous local governments will be stopped,” the officer said. In case of the rejection of the review appeal petition, the government would have to restore the previous local governments that had their tenure till coming Dec 31, he added.

In case of acceptance of the review petition, the local government officer said the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) would be open to give dates for the fresh local government elections under PLGA-2019. The officer said the department had already finalised the local government rules, delimitation rules and voter lists.

Since the census issues in Sindh and Balochistan had also been resolved, the officer went on to say, there was nothing left that could hinder the holding of local governments’ elections.

“Even if the Supreme Court rejects the Punjab government’s review appeal, the local government elections would be held by the next March– in three months after the local governments’ tenure expires by the end of this year,” the officer said.

Under the PLGA 2019, the Punjab government has carved out nine metropolitan corporations, instead of one, 17 municipal corporations, instead of the 11 mentioned in the 2013 Act. The government has slashed the number of municipal committees from 182 to 133 and created 11 more tehsil committees.

The 35 district councils that existed in the PLGA-2013 were also abolished and the PLGA-2019 created 136 tehsil councils.

Published in Dawn, August 2nd, 2021

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