KARACHI: Raising several objections, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail has refused to give his assent to the Sindh Local Government (Amendment) Bill 2021 and returned it to the Sindh Assembly for reconsideration, it emerged on Tuesday.

The governor himself confirmed the move while appearing on a private news channel on Monday night describing the recently passed bill as a move to make local government a ‘toothless’ system run by a ‘dummy’ mayor.

He categorically said that it was unacceptable and mentioned several ‘flaws’ in the bill, which made it controversial and based on ‘certain agenda’.

“I have returned the bill and asked them [Sindh Assembly] to fix it before the final nod,” said Mr Ismail. “The bill in fact negates the spirit of democracy and it finally brings the local governments under the provincial government with no authority or power and disallowing every source which could generate resources for the LG representatives. How a democratic party or system can allows this model to get in place for the local governments?”

Objections include mayoral election via secret ballot, insertion of Section 140-A and abolition of DMCs

10 major objections

A senior official on Tuesday explained that the governor raised 10 different objections to the bill and also sent his suggestions for every single objection.

“The gist of the Sindh governor’s objections revolves around Article 140-A of the Constitution, which defines the mandate, effectiveness and true model of the LG system in any province of the country,” he said.

“Among 10 key objections, there are four major points which are mentioned by the governor in his communiqué. Among them is objection on the secret balloting for election of mayor / chairmen. The governor believes that it will pave the way for ‘horse-trading’ and bulldoze the whole electoral process,” the official said.

Secondly, he said, the governor was also against a newly inserted section in the LG bill — insertion of Section 140-A (Power of government to amend schedules) — that allowed the provincial government to amend, remove or add any new clause in the bill without the consent of any stakeholders and knowledge of the local government representatives.

Objection to creation of towns

“So this amendment suggests this entire exercise of tabling a bill in the Sindh Assembly is a fake exercise,” the official added.

“What effectiveness this document will carry when it will become law through validation of the provincial assembly that allows the provincial government to do whatever it wants after it comes into effect? This is a kind of attempt to deceive the legislators and the parliamentary process,” the official said while mentioning the governor’s thought on the bill.

“The governor in his objections has also pointed out the elimination of the district municipal corporations and replacing them with the town system, saying that it will create an administrative issue,” he said.

“Another crucial point of the governor was allowing any unelected person to become mayor. The governor has criticised this model that creates space for non-elected persons only on the basis of strong financial position and close connection with the ruling elite,” the official said.

The Sindh governor had also expressed his serious reservations the way the provincial government had taken away all health, educational and vocational institutions from municipal organisations through the LG bill.

A number of hospitals, schools and training centres being run and owned by the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) would come under the fold of the Sindh government leaving no space for the local government in overall health and educational development of the city, he added.

What Constitution says

Article 116 of the Constitution deals with the issue and its clauses 3 and 4 say: “When the Governor has returned a Bill to the Provincial Assembly, it shall be reconsidered by the provincial assembly and, if it is again passed, with or without amendment, by the provincial assembly, by the votes of majority of the members of the provincial assembly present and voting, it shall be again presented to the Governor and the Governor shall give his assent within 10 days, failing which such assent shall be deemed to have been given.

“When the Governor has assented or is deemed to have assented to a bill, it shall become law and be called an act of provincial assembly.”

Murad calls on governor

Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah called on Governor Ismail at Governor House on Tuesday.

Karachi Administrator Murtaza Wahab, who is also the spokesperson for the Sindh government and CM’s law adviser, was also present in the meeting.

A statement issued from the Governor House said that the two sides discussed matters of mutual interest, including overall law and order situation, development in province and efforts to improve quality of life of the people.

“During the meeting, the two sides also discussed the reservations [of the governor] against the Sindh Commission for Regularisation of Construction Ordinance,” it added.

Published in Dawn, December 8th, 2021

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