“Only way to break the Status Quo”: PM stresses on Local Bodies empowerment

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Prime Minister Imran Khan has reaffirmed on Sunday that the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government’s main priority is to empower local bodies. PM Khan was on a one day visit to Lahore where he held meetings with Punjab Governor Chaudhry Sarwar, Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Governor Shah Farman, Chief Minister’s Adviser Nasir Durrani, Inspector General Police Punjab Mohammad Tahir, the Intelligence Bureau chief, and senior party leadership.

According to details, while chairing a meeting regarding a new local bodies system, drafted by the federal government, Prime Minister Imran said the government wants to truly empower citizens. “The most important agenda of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government is to delegate power to the local government,” he said. It is the only way forward to break the status quo across the country, he added.

“Punjab is the most populous province of the country and it will require further devolution of the current administrative units for empowering people at grassroots level,” one of the senior ministers told media.

Although the PTI is willing to have a working relationship with other political parties in the country, yet there are several challenges the party is about to face. Since the PTI has an ideology to challenge the status quo and transform Pakistan’s parochial political culture into a participant one, the parties of status quo consider it to be a direct threat to their respective political ideologies and norms they generally practice. PML-N in Punjab has always relied on the electable and feudal lords (landlords and pirs) who managed to win seats for the party.

PM Khan’s focus on human development and empowerment of local bodies is likely to alter the power of previously powerful MPAs and MNAs. Mr. Aleem Khan, local government minister of Punjab, apprised PM Imran of the priority agendas of all departments for the 100-day plan. Aleem Khan also briefed the premier regarding a draft of the proposed new local government structure.

Read more: PML-N denounces PTI’s first 100-day Plan

Moreover, on September 16th, PM Khan chaired a meeting where he clarified not to wrap up the LGs. The PTI government has said that the LGs in Punjab will complete their tenure in November 2019. Earlier, the PML-N leadership had threatened mass agitation besides a legal action in case the PTI government tried to send the local governments in Punjab packing before the completion of their tenure.

During the meeting, it was also decided to further shorten the current local government unit – the union council – on the basis of population for a better management and decentralization of power. “Punjab is the most populous province of the country and it will require further devolution of the current administrative units for empowering people at grassroots level,” one of the senior ministers told media.

Read more: New local government in new Pakistan

The PTI-led government is being criticized in Punjab for appointing Usman Buzdar and showing minimal interest in transforming the fate of the country’s largest province. For many observers, Mr. Buzdar lacks charisma and political vision to rule the most populous province of the country. But, at the same time, PM Khan has asked media to give him 100 days before criticizing him. It remains to be seen how Mr. Buzdar plays his role in the devolution plan to make the LGs more powerful and active.

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