Punjab Assembly Wednesday passed the Punjab Local Government (Amendment) Bill 2015 with a majority of votes after all the objections raised by the Opposition were turned down.
Opposition members vehemently criticised the Shahbaz Sharif’s government for snatching the right of direct elections from women, youth and labourers and leaving them at the mercy of a few union council members elected directly.
This is noteworthy that local body elections in Punjab are expected in two phases in the month of October and under the law a union council shall consist of directly elected Chairman, Vice Chairman, who will be elected jointly, as well as six ward members. A UC will comprise of six wards.
The members including two women, one labour councillor, a youth and a minority member will be elected indirectly which is in total contrast with the previous LG system introduced in the era of Pervez Musharraf. In the 2001 and 2005 local body polls which were held in Musharraf era, all the above mentioned members were elected directly due to which massive representation of women, labour councillors and minority members was ensured. All those members in a UC were headed by a Nazim and in the second phase of LG polls, they were to elect town Nazims and a district Nazim.
However, under the existing local government system, women have missed their previous representation and no seats have been allocated for them in a UC for direct polls. In past, due to direct election on the special seats of women, at least four women were elected in a union council member but in the present system, two women have been given representation in every UC but not through public ballot, but through the will of their own party leadership as the directly elected members including Chairman, Vice Chairman, six ward councillors of UC, majority of whom are likely to win on party tickets would elect them.
The Opposition members including Saadia Sohail Rana, Arif Abbasi, Asif Mehmood criticised the government for depriving women, youth, minority of direct polls and setting up a system of their own choice. They termed it a highly undemocratic way to run the state affairs and demanded the government review its move.
Law Minister Rana Sana Ullah Khan on the occasion stated that the perception that women or any other citizen had been deprived of the right of direct election wasn’t true. He said there was no clause in the bill which barred women from contesting polls as they could freely participate in the election process. Only, he said that voting they would be elected indirectly on their special seats. He also said that most of the PTI women members, elected on reserved seats were a glaring example of indirect poll process and it wasn’t justified to criticise this system.
The Punjab Local Government (Amendment)Bill 2015 states that the Government or an officer designated by the Government shall divide the rights, assets and liabilities of the existing local governments amongst the successor local governments and the Government, and, the decision of the Government or the designated officer shall be final. It also states that the Election Commission shall delimit a union council into six wards for the election of members on the general seats. It further states that until a UC is notified under the Act, the respective Metropolitan Corporation, Municipal Corporation or District Council shall perform functions of the Union Council.
Meanwhile, PA also laid ordinances including Ali Institute of Education Lahore 2015, the Punjab Private Educational Institutions (Promotions and Regulations) (Amendment) Ordinance 2015.
Moreover, Opposition leader in Punjab Assembly Mian Mehmood ul Rasheed, on a point of order voiced serious concern the security situation of NA-122 where by polls are scheduled on October 11. Mian Mehmood said that two of PTI workers had been gunned down and police were being used by PML-N government to exert pressure on rivals. PML-N women MPAs led by Rana Arshad interrupted Mian Mehmood during his point of order and chanted slogans against him after which Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal ordered members to maintain order in the House.
Fariha Fatima, daughter of former MPA late Kaneez Ishaq, took oath as member of Punjab Assembly and Speaker Rana Iqbal administered the oath.