Punjab told to hold local govt polls early next year

Published November 21, 2021
In this file photo, banners of political parties are displayed during a local government election in Lahore. —  Azhar Jafri/White Star
In this file photo, banners of political parties are displayed during a local government election in Lahore. — Azhar Jafri/White Star

• Bill to be tabled before assembly next week
• Direct vote to elect representatives, mayors
• Village council to comprise 13 members
• Five-year term of local bodies expiring on Dec 31

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan has directed the Punjab government to hold local government (LG) elections in the province in the first quarter of next year.

This was disclosed by federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Fawad Chaudhry while talking to Dawn on Saturday.

Mr Chaudhry said the prime minister had issued directives to Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and the minister for local government in this regard and the new local government bill would be presented before the Punjab Assembly next week. Providing some details of the proposed law, the minister said local representatives at the district level and mayors of the cities would be elected through a direct vote while the village council would comprise 13 members.

The five-year term of the local governments in Punjab is expiring on Dec 31.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) had reportedly already told the Punjab government to ensure compliance with its directions on holding of local government elections in the province within 120 days after Dec 31, failing which it may exercise the option of passing “order” as it did in case of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Islamabad Capital Territory.

“On the expiry of the term of local government institutions on the 31st December 2021, the ECP is determined to conduct next LG elections in the Punjab Province, in any way, within 120 days as required under subsection (4) of the section-219 of the Elections Act, 2017. In case of lacklustre response or non-compliance of the directions, the commission may exercise the option of passing “order” as it did in case of KP & ICT,” the commission warned in a letter to the Punjab’s Local Government and Community Development Department (LGCD).

On Oct 14, the ECP had rejected the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government’s plan to hold LG polls in the province in three phases, ordering it to complete the electoral process for the lowest tier of government by March 2022.

The officials of the provincial ECP had held a number of meetings with the provincial government representatives on the conduct of LG elections in the province, and in these meetings, the commission had categorically stated that the ECP was fully conscious of its constitutional obligations for holding elections in the province as required under Article-219 of the Constitution, but no result-oriented progress has been made by the government.

“The commission, keeping in view the situation, wants the LG department to convey to the Punjab government that: “Necessary laws/rules governing the conduct of local government elections in Punjab are required to be updated, if required. The up-dated Local Government Act-2019 and PLG (Elections) Rules-2021 may be provided to the ECP by November 30, 2021,” the ECP had directed.

The commission has also asked the government to provide it pre-requisite for delimitation of constituencies, such as notification regarding the number of villages and neighbourhoods, an updated notification of all local areas showing notified population along with the documents relating to demarcation of local areas, copies of authenticated maps of LG showing the clear boundaries by Nov 30, 2021, positively to start the process well in time.

The Buzdar administration in Punjab had reluctantly restored the local governments in the province to comply with a Supreme Court order subject to the outcome of its petitions seeking a review of the judgement in October.

The PTI-led coalition government in Punjab had dissolved the local bodies constituted under the Punjab Local Government Act 2013 in May 2019 soon after coming to power.

The PTI government had superseded the PLGA 2013 by promulgating the PLGA 2019 and the chief minister had immediately appointed LG administrators on May 4, 2019 – some 30 months ahead of completion of the tenure of LG representatives mostly belonging to the PML-N.

The administrators continued exercising these powers for over 29 months, including the seven months since the Supreme Court had issued a short order on March 25 declaring PLGA 2019’s Section 3 ultra vires to the Constitution.

The Punjab government initially delayed implementation of the Supreme Court order on the pretext that it was waiting for the detailed judgement, and later that it had filed a review petition after the detailed verdict was issued in July.

It swiftly restored the local bodies only after the apex court expressed dismay over non-compliance with its March 25 order, and summoned both the incumbent as well as the former chief secretaries of Punjab.

On Nov 19, the ECP had notified the schedule for delimitation of constituencies for the local government elections in Sindh, Balochistan and Islamabad.

Published in Dawn, November 21st, 2021

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