Sindh Assembly passes new LG bill as opposition boycotts proceedings

Published November 27, 2021
This file photo shows lawmakers during a session of the Sindh Assembly. — Online
This file photo shows lawmakers during a session of the Sindh Assembly. — Online

• Functions of education, health taken away
• Mayor to be elected through secret ballot
• Towns to replace DMCs

KARACHI: Amid opposition’s absence and based on its numeric majority in the Sindh Assembly, the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party on Friday get passed an amended local government bill that takes away functions of education and health care from municipal bodies and replaces open ballot for the election of mayors, deputy mayors, etc.

The Sindh Local Government (Amendment) Bill 2021 also abolishes District Municipal Corporations (DMCs) in urban parts of the province, replacing them with Town Municipal Corporations.

The opposition parties — Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Grand Democratic Alliance, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan and Muttahida Majlis Amal — rejected the new law and boycotted the proceedings after lodging strong protest by chanting anti-government slogans and carrying placards.

Secret ballot introduced

According to the amended bill, any person could be elected by the council as mayor, deputy mayor, chairman or vice chairman but according to the Sindh Local Government Act, 2013, only elected members had been eligible to be crowned as mayor, deputy mayor, chairman or vice chairman.

However, the indirect election would be held through secret ballot instead of open voting in the house to elect mayor, etc.

As per the amended bill, a metropolitan corporation would consist of over 5million people; municipal corporation between 300,000 to 5m; town in metropolitan corporation 500,000 to 750,000, town in municipal corporation 125,000 to 350,000; municipal committee 50,000 to 300,000; union committee in municipal corporation 45,000 to 75,000; union council 10,000 to 25,000 people.

The new bill has deprived the local government institutions of functions like education and health as they would deal only with municipal functions such as water, sanitation and garbage disposal.

‘Govt empowering LGs as per Bilawal’s vision’

Speaking on the bill, Local Government Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah said that the government was empowering the LG institutions through this bill as per the vision of Pakistan Peoples Party’s chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.

Justifying the urgency of tabling the amendment bill, he said that the Election Commission of Pakistan had given the provincial government a time frame for holding the LG election in Sindh.

Mr Shah said that the government consulted all major parties including PTI, MQM-P and Jamaat-i-Islami before tabling the amended bill and their proposals were also available on record. “We have incorporated their (opposition parties) recommendations in the bill,” he added.

As for the opposition protest over the bill, the LG Minister said: “It is not a final verdict and can be amended anytime.”

He also criticised the opposition members for boycotting the bill’s passage and said that they were assured of discussion on the bill. “They just want to oppose the bill without going through it,” he said.

The house passed the bill with a majority vote, without having a proper debate, in the presence of a lawmaker of the Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan.

Chaos in PA

Earlier, the house witnessed ruckus when Deputy Speaker Rehana Leghari allowed the LG minister to present the bill with opposition members protesting.

They gathered in front of the speaker’s rostrum, chanting Kala Qanoon Na Manzoor (Black Law is unacceptable) slogans.

The chair tried to calm them down assuring them that they would be allowed to speak on the bill. “Let the bill be introduced, I will give you the floor,” she told the opposition members who opted to boycott the proceedings later.

Meanwhile, the house also passed the Sindh Telemedicine and Telehealth Bill, 2021.

Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2021

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