ISLAMABAD: Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pak­istan (MQM-P) pledged to jointly contest the upcoming general elections in Sindh and strengthen local governments (LGs) nationwide through constitutional cover.

These commitments were made during a delegation-level meeting at the residence of PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal. The PML-N delegation included Ahsan Iqbal, Ayaz Sadiq, Saad Rafique, and Bashir Memon, while the MQM-P team comprised Farooq Sattar, Aminul Haq, and Mustafa Kamal.

During the meeting, the MQM-P side handed over a draft bill to the PML-N, seeking constitutional amen­dments to politically, financially, and administratively empower LGs so that “the fruits of democracy are extended for the benefit of the populace”.

Following the meeting, leaders from both sides held a news conference to provide details.

Muttahida seeks constitutional cover for empowerment of local government

Ahsan Iqbal said: “We [PML-N and MQM-P] will work together to secure as many seats [of the National Assembly in the forthcoming general elections] as possible from Sindh, the stronghold of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).”

He said the meeting discussed next general elections schedule to be held on Feb 8 as in the last government (of Pakistan Democratic Movement) both parties had decided to work together to eliminate unprecedented inflation, joblessness, injustice and resolve civic problems in major cities.

Mr Iqbal emphasised the importance of the LG system to involve the country’s youth in the democratic process and provide them with training. “We will pass a constitutional amendment through the next parliament, ensuring that local governments do not rely on the mercy of provincial governments and have constitutional cover.”

MQM-P leader Farooq Sattar said they (MQM-P delegation) have handed over a draft bill to the PML-N team aimed at empowering LGs through a constitutional amendment. “PML-N is completely satisfied with the gist of the bill,” he added.

He said MQM-P will also present the draft bill to other political parties to seek a consensus on the issue.

Draft bill

The bill called the Constitutional (Twenty-Sixth Amendment) Act, 2024 required that elections for the local government shall be held by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) after notifying number of union councils, union committees and wards in municipal committees and town committees or the number of units participating in the elections and demarcate and delimit the units.

The draft bill said for the Islamabad Capital Territory, as well as Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar and Quetta divisions, there shall be one local government for each division, and for such purpose each division shall constitute a separate district.

For territories and areas, other than the ones specified in clause-7 (above mentioned cities), divisions shall be demarcated and delimited in such a way that each city or urban area shall rank as an independent local government; an urban area shall not be demarcated along with a rural area.

The pre-condition to the holding of general elections, shall be the holding of the local government elections, if the tenure of local governments have lapsed prior to the tenure of the federal and provincial governments.

From any share of the provincial government determined through an award of the National Finance Commission, or any sum payable to the province through the Federal Consolidated Fund or public account, 70 per cent shall be paid directly to the respective LGs.

Powers and authorities of provincial government departments will shift to LGs, covering socio-economic development, urban planning, education, health, infrastructure, environmental protection, agriculture, and taxation, etc.

Published in Dawn, November 30th, 2023

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