LAHORE: The Punjab cabinet at its urgent meeting on Saturday okayed the plan of local governments’ transition back to the Punjab Local Government Act (PLGA) 2013 in line with the Supreme Court order.

With the approval of the transition plan, the Punjab cabinet at its 48th meeting chaired by Chief Minister Usman Buzdar also constituted a high-level cabinet committee comprising legal and constitutional experts including the ministers of law, local government and prosecution departments and other departments concerned, Advocate General Punjab and other senior officers for devising the strategy for the implementation on the plan.

“The committee will review every aspect of the plan and submit its recommendations,” directed the cabinet.

The Punjab government had gone for the cabinet meeting as the Lahore High Court summoned the Punjab Local Government and Community Development (LG&CD) department official to appear early next week in contempt proceedings.

The Punjab government had dissolved local bodies under Section 3 of the Punjab Local Government Act (PLGA) 2019 though the elections were held under the PLGA 2013 in phases in 2015 and 2016. The tenure of the elected local bodies was five years.

But the tenure of the local bodies came to an abrupt end on July 2 last year after the provincial government amended Section 3(2) of the PLGA by inserting the words “21 months” to replace “five years”.

Sources in the department say the Punjab cabinet’s committee looking after the transition plan will actually further delay the actual transition to the previous office-bearers of local governments created under the PLGA-2013. “The transition will complete so close to the deadline of PLGA-2013 that those restored to offices will not be able do anything worthwhile. They will only be satisfied that they have been restored, which will also cover government towards the implementation of the Supreme Court orders,” a source said.

Meanwhile, the Punjab government is also rationalising the PLGA 2019 and reducing the number of local governments by 100 as it had become difficult for it to run 359 local governments with only 29 per cent human resources. Sources say officials in the local governments were given charge of five to six assignments.

In the new local government system after the elections under PLGA-2019 next year, the mayors of Metropolitan Corporation and local government chairmen would be empowered. The mayor would head the horticulture, waste management, parking, public engineering, sports, education and health authorities. The LG chairmen will head education and health authorities.

It is learnt that the chief minister would also have eight different powers in the new local government system. Sources say the government is also raising the age bar from 25 years to 35 years for the seat of youth councillor.

The city having more than 10 million population would have 71 local government representatives comprising: one mayor, two minority representatives, 10 women, eight workers, two elderly, three youth and 45 general councillors.

Published in Dawn, October 10th, 2021

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