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Punjab Assembly: Three PML-N MPAs suspended over ruckus on local government bill

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Punjab Assembly’s deputy speaker suspended on Friday membership of three Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leaders after a ruckus was triggered during an assembly session.

Sardar Dost Muhammad Mazari, the deputy speaker in Punjab Assembly, suspended three members of PML-N – Uzma Bukhari, Pir Ashraf Rasool and Mian Abdul Rauf – as the opposition intensified protest on a report on the local government bill.

The opposition members shouted anti-government slogans, exchanged harsh words with the deputy speaker and staged a walkout after raising objections over various points of the report. On April 25, assembly’s Standing Committee on Local Government approved the bill.

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It was reported that MPA Rasool was suspended during the presentation of the bill, whereas the membership of the other two leaders was suspended after the deputy speaker replayed a video of the protest.

Punjab Law Minister Basharat Raja, while defending the bill lamented that consensus between PML-N and the government was difficult as the opposition party wanted to have its way. He said that the government tried to bring the opposition on board but in vain.

Features of Proposed Local Government Law

On April 11, the media reported, Law and Local Government Minister Basharat Raja explained the new local government law to media persons at a press conference at 90-Shahrah-e-Quaid-e-Azam.

During the press conference, the minister said Punjab’s new local government law would introduce two-tier administrative infrastructure – Panchayat at rural level and Neighborhoods Council at the lowest level of local government in urban areas.

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In the new local government law, the report said, the district councils would be abolished in the rural local governments and be replaced by a Tehsil Council at each tehsil level raising the number from 35 districts to 138 tehsils across the province. In place of existing union councils, Raja said, the new law will introduce Panchayat for each Mauza – so there will be 22,000 Panchayat instead of 3,281 union councils.

In the urban local government system, the report said, there would be Metropolitan Corporation for four cities – Lahore, Gujranwala, Faisalabad and Rawalpindi; municipal corporations for eight cities – DG Khan, Multan, Sargodha, Sahiwal, Sialkot, Murree, Bahawalpur and Gujrat.

Raja said the urban union councils and wards would be abolished and some 2,400 Neighborhood Councils would be established at grassroots level. There would be municipal committees in 182 cities and town committees in 40 small towns.

Read more: Are partisan bureaucrats giving tough time to government in Punjab?

Explaining about the local government elections structure, the report read, Raja said there would be party-based elections for urban and tehsil councils, while mayor and chairpersons would be elected through direct election. The members will be elected on a panel proposed by party on a proportional basis.

During the press conference, the minister also explained functions of urban local governments, tehsils councils, Panchayats, and Neighborhood Councils.

Elections and Funds

The Panchayat and Neighborhood Councils elections would be held on a non-party basis and the candidate securing highest votes would become chairperson.

Briefing on the local government finances, Raja said the funds would be directly transferred to urban local governments, tehsils councils, Panchayat and Neighborhood Councils – ensuring more transparency and efficiency.

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As per KP precedent, he said, one-third of the ADP funds would be transferred to local governments for devolved functions. In addition to this, the law minister said, “Rs40 billion would be transferred to Panchayats and neighborhood councils for local development”.