Updated Sep 03, 2018 06:08pm

New local government system in the works

Syed Irfan Raza

ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Sunday constituted a committee to recommend within a week a proposal for a new local government structure that will be scrutinised and presented before the provincial assemblies to initiate the required legislation process within a month.

While presiding over a meeting at PM Office, Mr Khan said that new laws must be prepared within a week so that they could be enforced in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — the provinces where his PTI has its government. Sindh, where the PPP has its government, and Balochistan, where a BAP-led coalition is in power, would be asked to enforce the new LG system under Article 140-A of the Constitution, he added.

At the meeting, which was also attended by the chief ministers of three of the four provinces besides federal and provincial ministers and secretaries, Federal Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa chief secretary gave separate briefings on the local government system. Another round of discussion on the matter will be held on Monday (today) when it will be decided if the union councils would continue to exist in the new system or they would be replaced by village councils.

Imran wants provinces to be taken on board for legislation

The prime minister said the transfer of power at the grassroots level and people’s empowerment in the real sense was the main plank of PTI’s agenda of reforms. Mr Khan said the past practice of centralisation of power had deprived the people of any meaningful say in government affairs.

It was learnt that the prime minister endorsed the new system proposed by the information minister and decided that after completion of the tenure of the current local bodies, the district government would cease to exist. Instead there would be tehsil governments to be headed by tehsil mayors whereas city mayor would head the whole system of tehsil governments in a city.

Talking to Dawn after the meeting, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said, “I proposed LG system like the one functioning in London, Birmingham and Scandinavian countries in which city mayor is elected directly by the people and not by tehsil and union councils.”

He said in the direct election system people cast two votes at a time and the candidates for the office of city and tehsil mayors would have to get at least 51 per cent votes.

However, Punjab governor-designate Chaudhry Sarwar and Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal opposed direct elections system in the country. Mr Kamal said people would not be able to understand direct voting system but the prime minister was of the opinion that the system of direct election of mayor should be implemented so that funds could be utilised by the mayors instead of members of national and provincial assemblies.

About the proposal to replace union councils with village councils, the information minister told the meeting it would not be possible to provide infrastructure for 56,000 villages in the country. “I proposed that the existing union councils be retained and this was also endorsed by the prime minster,” he said.

Safety of Zaireen

In a separate meeting, PM Khan directed the relevant officials to chalk out a comprehensive action plan in consultation with all stakeholders within 48 hours for the security of Zaireen visiting holy places in Iran, Iraq and other countries during the coming month of Muharram.

Balochistan Chief Minister Jam Kamal Khan, Minister of State for Interior Shahryar Afridi, secretary to prime minister, interior secretary, religious affairs secretary, Balochistan chief secretary and senior government officers also attended the meeting.

PM Khan said no effort should be spared in providing fool-proof security and proper facilities to the Zaireen.

He directed the relevant officials that immigration counters at Pakistan-Iran border should be enhanced to facilitate speedy immigration process. He also directed them that a permanent mechanism be evolved to streamline the entire process.

In this context, the prime minister directed the state minister for interior to coordinate with the chief minister of Balochistan and other stakeholders, including the security forces and ministry of religious affairs, to streamlining the process and ensure provision of maximum facilities to the Zaireen.

He said a comprehensive time-bound action plan with delineated responsibilities be submitted to him for his approval.

Published in Dawn, September 3rd, 2018

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