Punjab Local Government Act to undergo further changes – Pakistan

LAHORE: The local government system and law in Punjab will again undergo changes as the Chief Minister has formed a committee on local government law and system.

The 30-member committee, with MPA Sardar Awais Leghari as organizer, includes five MPAs, seven mayors/presidents of various municipal corporations/district and union councils, secretaries of local government, law, S&GAD and public health engineering, two elders and local government secretaries, legal and economic experts as well as academics and civil society.

The commission will report on the bill and the local government regime by June 5.

In accordance with its terms of reference, the commission will draft the law in accordance with the requirements of Article 140-A of the Constitutions and recent decisions of the Supreme Court.

Committee of 30 members formed

It will engage political and administrative stakeholders and seek input from universities, civil society organizations and representatives of vulnerable groups in drafting the law.

The committee will propose statutory mechanisms in relation to the institutional framework to remove obstacles faced by LGs, improve coordination between LGs, district administration and decentralized departments, mechanism for the transition period, reform the generation of own-source revenue, streamlining the municipal financial framework through a public-private partnership, municipal bonds, creation of business districts at the local level, etc.

He will also suggest cementing the Punjab Local Government Commission for arbitrating disputes between local governments and departments as well as coordination with cantonment boards.

This will be the ninth attempt to establish a local government system in Punjab, as scholars claim that the village-based local body mechanism was first introduced in the region by the Aryans between the second and first millennium BC.

It remained functional without any major changes until the colonial era, when Lord Cornwallis introduced an Act in 1870 as a departure from the previous system and created a new feudal class to help govern the sub-continent with their limited representation in local councils mainly controlled by bureaucracy and the population was for the first time divided on a rural and urban basis.

In the post-partition era, a system of decentralized local bodies was introduced in 1959 by General Ayub Khan. The Municipal Administration Ordinance of 1960 created union councils at four levels. The system ended with the ousting of the military dictator until General Ziaul Haq reintroduced a new local corps system in 1979.

Both General Ayub and General Zia gave more importance to their local systems, but without constitutional protection. Both of these systems maintained the division between rural and urban areas and were based on non-parties, which had a lasting impact on politics as castes and clans instead of political parties were promoted.

Then General Pervez Musharraf gave the Punjab Local Government Ordinance 2001 whose main distinction was the elimination of the rural-urban divide, transferring various provincial departments to districts, introducing a provincial finance commission for apportionment resources between districts and 33% representation for women.

After the constitutional coverage of the PLGO 2001 ended in 2009, the law was overhauled by the PML-N government in 2008 and again in 2013 with major changes to the system and wing cuts of local governments.

When the PTI came to power, it dissolved the existing local bodies by enacting the Punjab Local Government Act 2019 which reintroduced the divide between rural and urban areas. However, unlike in the past, the head of the local body had to be elected by direct suffrage and the councilors elected by a closed list proportional system, the list having to be provided by the political parties in the running. It introduced panchayats for rural and ward councils for urban centres, although these lacked powers, with the oversight role given to the provincial government.

The new system foreseen by the 2019 law was supposed to take place by April 2020, but the government delayed the holding of the elections for one excuse or another, fearing defeat at the hands of the opposition PML-N in the local polls. .

Under pressure from the Supreme Court, the government enacted an ordinance on December 27 and re-enacted it at the end of March when its 90-day life expired to organize local polls in two phases, the ballot for the first phase to be held on May 29. However, the change of government in Punjab compromised the electoral process and the poll could not take place.

Posted in Dawn, May 31, 2022

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