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KP cabinet meeting to discuss new LG system today

By Riaz Khan Daudzai
April 18, 2019

PESHAWAR: The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa cabinet is holding a special meeting today to take up a single point agenda of finalizing the new Local Government (LG) system in the province as the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) deadline of April 30 for amendments to Local Government Act 2013 has drawn near.

The meeting, which will be chaired by Chief Minister Mahmood Khan, will review section by section the proposed Local Government Amendment Bill, 2019.

The draft bill has already been presented at a joint meeting of the ministerial and technical committee which agreed to the proposed amendments.

The amendment bill has retained certain sections about the authority of the provincial government to have oversight and checks and balances for ensuring transparency and accountability in the governance at the local level.

The tenure of the local councils is ending on August 28 and the ECP has given the province the deadline to make changes to its LGA 2013 and pass the Amendment LGA Bill from the provincial assembly by April 30.

The government has to meet the April 30 deadline as the election rules restrict the provinces from making any changes to the LGA three months before the elections.

According to the working paper, numerous meetings have been held in the prime minister and chief minister secretariats during which a number of changes to the existing LGA 2013 were proposed.

The changes also include the abolition of the district tier and impeachment of the heads of tehsil and city local governments.

The new system would be two-tier at tehsil and local councils level as the government has decided in principle to do away with the elected district tier and elect tehsil and city chairmen through direct elections..

The titles of the nazim and naib-nazim have been changed to chairman and vice-chairman in both tiers of local government.

Amendments have been proposed to Section 25A of the LGA 2013 and the concept of the city local government would be introduced to make room for the creation of an urban local governance structure for the urban areas in Peshawar. The provincial capital has four towns in the existing LGA.

It would be introduced in the city district as a first step and if found successful it would be replicated in other urban centres of the province. The urban features of the system will allocate additional functions to the City Local Government.

The tehsil chairman under the proposed system would be directly elected in party-based elections. The whole tehsil would be considered a constituency.

The executive authority of tehsil local government will vest in the tehsil chairman, who will be responsible to ensure that the business of tehsil local government is carried out in accordance with the law.

The provision of Section 84 of LGA about the issue of no-confidence has been replaced with impeachment. The chairman of tehsil or city local government can be impeached by a two-thirds majority of the total members.

However, the impeachment motion won’t be moved before the expiry of six months of his assumption of the office and before the expiry of six months from the date on which the motion was moved.

As laid down in the Eleventh Schedule of the LGA 2013, the percentage of the reserved seats for women, youth, peasants and minorities have been retained and village councils (VCs) and neighbourhood councils (NCs) returned candidates getting the highest percentage of votes in reserved seat categories will be members of tehsil councils.

The VCs and NCs would be seven-member bodies with three general members (including the chairman) who would be directly elected from the free list of candidates in non-party elections. Its other members will include a woman, youth, a peasant and minority member.

Due to direct election of chairmen in tehsils councils, budget approval has been modified. Budget will now be passed with a simple majority of members present and voting.

It will allow the directly elected chairmen the room to easily get their budget proposals approved. Unlike the LAG 2013 provisions, the chairmen will not be de-seated if he fails to get his budget approved.

In the absence of the district tier, there would be an administrative vacuum. To fill the vacuum the role of the district administration has been defined for the purposes of coordination, review, dispute resolution and assistance by the government.

The provincial government would provide guidelines and render advice for achieving the ends of its policy and for promoting economic, social and environmental security of the province.

Another important provision, which was introduced in 2016 in Section 9 of the LGA 2013 through an amendment, pertains to the commercialization of University Town in Peshawar. It has been re-drafted and retained in the new bill.