Wednesday May 25, 2022

Early LG polls, increase in women’s representation demanded

By Our Correspondent
February 28, 2021

LAHORE: Stakeholders and other participants in a convention held on local governments demanded early local government elections and increase in representation of women besides giving all the private companies providing municipal services and the development authorities under the local government surveillance and control.

In Punjab minimum age for a candidate for local government election is 25 years while in all the other provinces it is 21 years, they said. It was demanded to bring the age limit down to 21 years to contest election as is in other provinces. They said women’s representation had been reduced from two seats to one.

PML-N MPA Kanwal Liaquat said on one hand the government claimed it was empowering women, but on the other, it had reduced their representation.

A councilor, Ghalaza Nazam Deen, demanded equals seats for women and men.

The Sangat Development Foundation (SDF), which is working for a democratic society in Pakistan, brought together former councillors from seven districts of Punjab, representatives of civil society organisations and the government officials who are closely working for local governments and intelligentsia in the provincial convention held by it. The Local Government Ordinance came into effect on January 12, 2021 for a period of 90 days. When taken to assembly there may be more amendments, said the participants.

“While general elections to national and provincial assemblies have to be held within 90 days of dissolution of assemblies by law, there isn’t a law specifically on holding local government elections within a certain time period,” said Zahid Islam, an expert on local governments. He pointed out that the number of towns would come down in the new delimitations the government is going for. One very important thing, he pointed out, was that all the different councils have nearly the same responsibilities which will cause problems when it will actually come to working.

The experts and stakeholders said the district governments were dissolved in January 2017. In 2019, the government made changes to the local government law by which district councils and union councils were struck off while tehsil councils were introduced and by another law village panchayat. In 2021, an amendment was made even to the 2019 LG laws through 2021 Ordinance, according to which, in the rural areas there will be tehsil councils, village councils and village panchayats. The district councils and union councils aren’t there but old union councils appear to be very much there in village councils. Then, neighbourhood councils have been made part of the city local government system. There will be direct elections on all slots. The rules for election are the same as in 2019 law.

Salman Abid, executive director of IDEA, challenged the 2019 local government law.

In neighbourhood and village panchayats the elections will be held on non-party basis which was condemned by some participants at the convention. A panchayat will be formed through the village council comprising five elected members. The person who would get more votes will be the convener. The candidates for chairman, vice chairman slots will contest in a joint panel.

Bushra Khaliq of WISE called upon the civil society and political parties to intervene for holding the local government elections as early as possible. As for minorities, by this law, only non-Muslims will vote for non-Muslims. Many in the convention raised voice against separate electorate and demanded minorities be allowed to contest in general.

A representative of transgender people was of the view that the transgender people were also a minority. Nobody talks about them. She called upon giving them a seat as well.

Local government is nursery for politicians, it should be allowed to flourish, they said.