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January 6, 2015

PA passes Punjab Local Government Bill 2014


January 6, 2015

LAHORE: Punjab Assembly here on Monday with a dismal attendance unanimously passed The Punjab Local Government (Third Amendment) Bill 2014.
The Bill moved by Law Minister Mian Mujtaba Shuja-ur-Rehman and cleared by the Standing Committee on Local Government and Rural Development gives a definition for elections as per the recommendations of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
The Supreme Court had earlier directed the Punjab government to hold meetings with ECP to provide assistance for carrying out delimitations of constituencies for local bodies elections and submit a report to the Court. Keeping in view the SC directions, a meeting was convened with ECP last month wherein certain amendments to the 2013 Punjab Local Government Act were proposed by the Commission. The Bill included these recommendations.
Following Sindh Assembly successfully passing a bill giving delimitation powers to ECP this year, Punjab Assembly also unanimously voted in a bill empowering the Commission to carry out delimitations of constituencies.
As per the bill successfully passed, elections are defined as those held under the Act which also includes by-elections, no alterations can be made in the boundaries of a local area after announcement of the election schedule, the ECP holds the authority to appoint returning officers from amongst officers of the Federal government, and casual vacancy may be substituted with by-elections.
Beginning one hour late with less than 40 MPAs present in the House, the session was chaired by Standing Committee of Education Chairperson PML-N MPA Engineer Qamar-ul-Aslam Raja as both the Speaker and Deputy Speaker were absent. It is pertinent to note that the opposition bench had no members present at the start of the session and later only three MPAs from PPP and PML-Q were present.
The Punjab Irrigation Department came under intense criticism as MPAs on both benches highlighted the growing problem of water shortage, unlined

canals, lack of capacity to hold water in canals and major dams, water theft by influential agriculturists, destruction caused to canals after monsoon flooding, and failure of government to implement plans for irrigation in the province. It is important to note that the Minister for Irrigation Mian Yawar Zaman was not available to answer questions related to his department.
The Parliamentary Secretary assured the House that a meeting had been held under Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif regarding canal water theft and measures were being devised to punish those engaged in water theft and guilty of arbitrarily altering irrigation canals for personal purposes. Additionally, plans to increase capacity of water storing canals and dams would be completed by June 2015, he assured members in the Assembly.
PML-Q MPA Mian Tariq Mehmood alerted the acting Chairman of the Assembly to the repeated absence of Department Secretaries during question hour and the inability of ministers to give adequate reply to grievances raised by MPAs on both the treasury and opposition benches. Meanwhile, PML-N MPA Azma Zahid Bokhari demanded measures be taken against those members, who register their attendance for daily allowance but failed to attend sessions.
Clearly disgruntled by the relaxed attitude of the Irrigation Department, presiding Chairman Engineer Qamar-ul-Aslam Raja stated that incorrect replies to questions were unacceptable and the right to information of every MPA should be respected.
Returning to the House for the second half of the session, Speaker Rana Iqbal faced the visibly angered PML-N MPA Dr Farzana Nazeer, who demanded that the Punjab government pay for the Assembly mosque under construction instead of MPAs. The Speaker assured the female MPA that financial contributions from assembly members would be taken on a voluntary basis only.
Once again absent in the House, call attention notices regarding crime were ruled pending by the Speaker as Home Minister Col (r) Shuja Khanzada was not present to give answers. PML-N MPA Sheikh Allaudin criticised his absence and demanded the government to ensure that all aspiring students of poor financial standing were able to benefit from 10 percent quota for free education in all private education institutions under the Punjab Free and Compulsory Education Ordinance 2014.
Allaudin demanded the government to arrest all the culprits behind the death and sexual abuse of a seven-year-old boy in Green Town, as well as those responsible for harassing candle vigil participants at Liberty Chowk, Sunday. The vigil had been held in memory of the assassinated Governor Salman Taseer on the occasion of his death anniversary.
Responding to these demands, Law Minister Mujtaba Shuja-ur-Rehman told the House that the Green Town culprits had been arrested by the police. Meanwhile, Liberty police have registered an FIR and arrested a few suspects possibly involved in the Sunday incident. The PML-N MPA demanded all institutions of religious learning be open to inspection and teachers be scrutinised through a certification process. PML-Q MPA Sardar Vickas Hassan Mokal flayed the Punjab government for being silent on activities of clerics. The assembly was prorogued until further notification by the Speaker.

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