News Desk |
On Monday, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that two-tiered local government elections will be held throughout Punjab to create a new municipal system in the province. PM Khan has assured that this new system is a “revolutionary step” that will replace the system of “Dehat” and “Panchayat”, will be the herald of change and innovation in the political system of the province.
The Premier’s press conference, held days after the new Punjab Local Government Act 2019 was ushered in to replace the Punjab Local Government Act 2013, put forward a road map of how the two-tiered local government elections will be held.
Accompanied by Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, KP Chief Minister Mehmood Khan, PTI Leader Jahangir Tareen, and Punjab Local Bodies Minister Raja Basharat amongst others, PM Khan announced that direct elections will be held across 22,000 village councils in the provinces. He specified that the candidates need not belong from a political party in order to qualify for contesting the election.
New Municipal System: Harbinger of New Leadership & Innovation
PM Imran Khan explained that Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf had formed councils in villages across Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in the previous term, and these councils were immensely successful amongst the local people, and keeping in mind the model and experiences learnt in KPK, this new system will be implemented in Punjab. He explained, “Village councils were our most successful experiment, funds were directly provided to the villages, and the election was non-party based to avoid discrimination and political prejudices”.
PM Khan added that elections across the 22,000 village councils of Punjab will be the “harbinger of a new leadership” as now the youth, women and all others can take part in the election. These 22,000 village councils and cities will be provided with $140 billion worth of funds allocated for the province, and the elections for the villages and cities will be differently.
The process of direct elections will promote development of the union councils and efficient allocation of developmental fund, and the cities, for instance, Lahore, will also elect their mayor through a direct election process, “much like the Mayor of London or New York is elected”. Each mayor will bring his/her own cabinet consisting of experts of town planning, funds allocation and development, and the process will ensure that funds are not dissipated but efficiently allocated towards strategic development that will uplift the city.
PM Khan lamented, “Our cities are turning into ruins, they lack facilities and efficient management, and as they are expanding, insufficient allocation of funds has undermined key strategic development.” PM Khan also highlighted that in certain aspects, such as the case of Lahore where 57% of entire Punjab’s budget was allocated on the city, development of one city often undermines the funds allocated for the development of the entire province. He stressed that this new two-tier election system will ensure appropriate allocation of funds as cities will also be responsible for “their own revenue collection”.
New System will Ensure Efficient Allocation of Funds
Prime Minister Khan stressed that the 18th Constitutional Amendment has rendered the provinces incapable of collecting taxes, primarily because they are not equipped with the instruments of doing so. Citing the example of Karachi, PM Khan, explained, “It can never improve because it lacks funds and it does not collect its own revenues”.
He cited the examples of cities like Bombay, amongst other cities, which collects $1 Billion worth of yearly revenues, and stressed that cities must collect their own revenues in order to improve and sustain their development. PM Khan added, “We have witnessed in the past that when military governments come into power, they stress upon the municipalities, while democratic governments do away with municipalities and hand over their funds to MNAs and MPs, which has distorted the development of Pakistan”.
PM Khan added that Pakistan is witnessing a massive surge of urbanization, with Punjab as the epicenter of economic activity, it is important to focus on developing and uplifting the entire province as opposed to a handful of cities. He stressed that cities and their elected mayors must be responsible for their own development, sewage planning, construction, revenue collection, funds allocation, and management.
Prime Minister Imran Khan debunked all rumors that the PTI-led federal government is considering ushering a presidential-style governance system in Pakistan. He stressed, “This speculation over a presidential-style system is not a debate we (PTI) have opened, as it requires the entire parliament to agree upon this proposal.”