Political Consensus and Private Member Bill is the solution to adhere all LG problems: Pirzada

Local Councils Association of the Punjab (LCAP) and Institute for Democratic Education & Advocacy (IDEA) in collaboration with the European Union and Commonwealth Local Government Forum have organized an Expert Roundtable on Strengthening Local Governments in Pakistan.

The debate revolved around salient thematic areas to develop a framework for policy recommendations to work with the Local Government Ministry of Punjab to introduce a better functioning local government system. The discussion revolved around Constitutional Provisions of local governments, the Role of Federal and Provincial Governments in maintaining continuity of local government system and effective decentralization. Participants have also discussed budget division among all tiers of government and the nature of local government elections. Furthermore, the debate pondered the light on the inclusion of marginalized segments of society.

The meeting was jam-packed with representatives of distinctive work areas such as Media, Civil Society, Academia, Local Government Members and other stakeholders. The meeting was moderated by Mr Salman Abid, Executive Director, IDEAS. He specifically pointed out that the constitution of Pakistan provides a timeframe to reinstate provincial and federal government in 90 days after dissolution or expiry, but there is no such provision regarding a timeframe of reinstating local governments after expiry or dissolution except in the Elections Act 2017.

President LCAP, Ms Fozia Khalid Warraich states that local councils associations helped all the mayors and local government members to understand the structure, legalities and system of local governments tendering the legal support to raise voice in the apex court against suspension of elected local government members of Punjab and got the local bodies restored.

It is necessary to adopt global practices and knowledge to implement a better local government system in Pakistan, the international conferences are an active tool to foster the culture of recognizing the important role of the local government, said President ADLG, Mr Rajan Sultan Pirzada.

Senior Advocate, Mr Nawzish Ali Pirzada who won the case in the apex court of restoration of local governments said that the constitution of Pakistan protects local governments in Article 140-A read with Article 7 of the constitution of Pakistan. As per law, Provincial Governments are bound to establish local governments in their respective provinces. But, to attain a straight chapter identical to provincial governments in the constitution, He provides the solution to the participants to work on a private member bill for a constitutional amendment. He elaborates that a private member bill can be presented by the government or the opposition in the assembly, to practically solve all issues related to constitutional reservations and protections for local governments all political parties must reach a consensus to draft a private member bill and devise an advocacy plan for its approval. He mentioned the fact that the supreme court verdict of restoration of local governments of Punjab protects the continuity of the local governments either.

In Pakistan, it is imminent that the judiciary has always been an active influencer to initiate local government election process, on the other hand, it has the power to strike down or empower the local government legislation, so civil society should sensitize judicial representatives to introduce a better local government system in the country, said Qazi Mubeen, Senior Advocate.

Minorities are used as a puppet in the process of elections of local governments, they are just used to fill the quota. Women inclusion should be increased in every legislation of local government and implemented properly, said Ms Bushra Khaliq, Executive Director, WISE. The participants specifically mentioned that the elections should be on a party basis to build groomed leaders at a lower level, on the other hand, some participants pointed out that the non-party-based elections are feasible due to the formulation of nursery for local leaders without the monopoly of political parties, some groups suggested party-based elections can opt with the inclusion of independent candidates to contest the elections.

Author: LCAP
Local Councils Association of the Punjab is an organisation working in Lahore, Punjab. While supporting various local government aspects under the project SALG funded by European Union and CLGF.

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