LAHORE: The law governing the (non-existent for over two years) local governments has been changed once again before even giving a try to the previous one, which was enacted less than three months ago.

Amidst the boycott of the proceedings by the opposition PML-N and PPP and ignoring the lack of quorum in the house as pointed out by the opposition, the Punjab Assembly on Wednesday passed the Local Government Bill of 2021 repealing the Local Government Act of 2022. The latter was passed by the Hamza government on June 24, 2022.

The bill has done away with the middle tier – tehsil councils in rural and town councils in urban areas – of the local government system that has been in vogue since 2002 and was also retained in the 2022 Act. It also reduces the number of seats in a union council: general seats of councillors from six to five, of women reserved seats from three to two and of youths from two to one, whereas three seats were reserved for technocrats and two for disabled persons were also abolished.

The term of local governments has also been cut from five years suggested in the 2022 Act to four years.

While the 2022 Act had proposed establishing Metropolitan Corporation at each divisional level, the 2021 Bill adds two district headquarters, Gujrat and Sialkot, in the list for the purpose.

After the official business was over, Malik Ahmed Khan Bhachhar, a treasury member, suggested that the house form a parliamentary committee comprising MPAs from the flood-affected areas to decide on subsidy on the wheat seeds.

He said as the seed stored by the farmers from the previous crop had been damaged during the floods and the smallholders had no resources to purchase seed from the open market, there could be a drastic drop in grain plantation and thus leading to a wheat shortage in the next crop year.

To enable the farmers owning up to 12 acres of land to purchase wheat seed on subsidized rates, the committee should give its suggestions and also oversee the process, he added.

Speaker Sibtain Khan endorsed the suggestion and urged Law & Parliamentary Affairs Minister Raja Basharat to look into it and take a decision in consultation with Mr Bhachhar.

Later, the chair put off the session for two weeks, up to Sept 28.

Published in Dawn, September 15th, 2022

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