Punjab govt in haste to get new law approved for LG election

Published November 23, 2021
This file photo shows a session of the Punjab Assembly in progress. — APP/File
This file photo shows a session of the Punjab Assembly in progress. — APP/File

LAHORE: The Punjab government has finalised the draft Punjab Local Government Act (PLGA) 2021 and it is hastily working to get it approved by the provincial cabinet, which is meeting on Tuesday (today), for tabling it in the Punjab Assembly next week while acting on Prime Minister Imran Khan’s direction to hold election by the coming March.

The government is showing this haste following the Election Commission of Pakistan’s directions to hold local government (LG) elections within 120 days after Dec 31 when the current government’s five-year term expires.

PLGA 2021 to get nod by cabinet

The PML-N is, however, pursuing its case of getting its almost two years that were wasted owing to suspension of the LG’s tenure by the incumbent PTI government.

PM Khan, a couple of days ago, had directed the Punjab government to hold LG elections in the first quarter of the next year. He also constituted a three-member committee, comprising PTI chief organiser Saifullah Niazi, Aamir Kyani and Punjab Local Government Minister Mian Mahmoodur Rasheed, to select strong candidates for slots of chairmen of district councils and mayors.

Meanwhile, the federal government has also asked Punjab to provide Rs9bn for onward transfer to the ECP for holding the elections. Sources say it would be tough for Punjab to spare Rs9bn– most probably by cutting the development budget.

On the other hand, the officials close to the development say the government has not shared the draft law with other political parties. They suggest that the draft Act should have been shared widely and the parties as well as general public be allowed to speak their hearts out about it.

The final PLGA 2021 manuscript proposes creation of 11 metropolitan corporations — nine at divisional headquarters and one each in Sialkot and Gujrat. It has also identified 15 municipal corporations and proposed a municipal corporation status for Murree. Each municipal corporation will have population less than 250,000 people.

Similarly, 109 municipal committees and 125 town committees will be carved in the urban local governments having more than 50,000 and 25,000 population, respectively.

The Punjab Local Government and Community Development (LG&CD) Department has proposed 1,883 neighbourhood councils and none of this council will be in any town committee.

In the rural areas, the department has proposed 35 district councils and 3,364 village councils.

Regarding mode of the LG elections, the government has proposed party-based as well as direct elections for all upper tiers, neighbourhood and village councils.

For the upper tiers, it proposed 37pc elections on the party-base, having panels comprising head, deputy head and councillors on reserved seats, while the 63pc through direct election to be held on the basis of closed list proportional representation of general councillors. This whole upper tier election will be held through only one ballot paper.

Similarly, for the neighbourhood and village councils, the chairman, vice-chairman and councillors on reserved seats as a panel of seven will be held on a party basis while six general councillors will be elected on proportional representation, only on one ballot paper.

The LG&CD department is also working to fix role of authorities and public sector companies in the metropolitan corporations, including PHAs, development authorities, WASAs, TEPAs, waste management companies, parking companies as well as sports, literacy and population welfare.

The department has also proposed authorities in each district, including a health authority; a education authority; a social welfare authority, a population control authority and sports and recreation authority.

The proposed law explains the composition of district authorities, including the lord mayor of metropolitan corporation as the chairperson and his nominated deputy mayor or member of the head’s cabinet as the vice chairperson; the chairperson of the district council and the head of the largest urban local government in the district as chairperson and the vice-chairperson (other than Lahore district); the district office of each devolved district level office of the respective government department shall be the secretariat of the district authority.

The departmental head of each devolved district level office of the respective government department shall be the ex-officio chief executive officer of the authority.

Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2021

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