Local body systems

April 4, 2021

A comparison of the features of various local bodies’ models in Pakistan

The Punjab Local Government Act 2019, following the recent amendments and changes, takes the lead in terms of potential for efficacy. Governance experts The News on Sunday talked to consider it the most beneficial local body system in the country. The local body system in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province can is seen as second in terms of its efficiency. The system for cantonment areas of the country is considered the most deficient as far as civilian participation in handling the matters of civic affairs is concerned.

Anwar Hussain, Executive Director, Local Councils Association of the Punjab (LCAP) is of the opinion that The Punjab Local Government Act is more effective. This is in a sense that, if implemented in letter and spirit, it will enable local bodies to have more authority as well as sway on the various city government’s institutions. This will also help in bringing many other powerful institutions like the Lahore Development Authority (LDA), the Parks and Horticulture Authority (PHA) and Lahore Mass Transport Transit Authority (LTA) under their direct control.

Presently, Hussain is of the view that even though these powerful civic institutions are directly linked to the citizens, they are being controlled by the provincial government directly through administrators. The local bodies’ institutions have nothing to do with these authoritative institutions. In developed countries, the provision of education, health, civic amenities to the citizens is the subject of the local bodies. This is the reason they are either controlled by the local governments or the local bodies. In the Hussain shares, under this Act the next elections of the local bodies in Punjab are expected to be held by the end of this year or at the start of 2022.

On paper, the Punjab local government law takes the lead. In terms of efficiency, the local body system in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province is second in line.

Abdul Ghaffar was elected chairman of Union Council 165 in Lahore in the 2017 elections. After the Supreme Court of Pakistan ordered that the 2019 dissolution of the local governments in the Punjab was unconstitutional, he has tried unsuccessfully to take charge of his office.

Talking to the TNS, Zahid Islam, executive director of a local NGO, Sangat Development, says that if local bodies become operational under the Punjab Local Bodies Act promulgated in 2019, they could go a long way towards delivering essential services. He notes that after the promulgation of the Act, some useful amendments have

also been introduced to make it more effective. “The larger the ambit of this Act gets by bringing more civic institutions under this system, the more beneficial it will be for the people of the province,” he adds.

Zahid Islam adds that the governments of Sindh and Balochistan have yet to introduce new local bodies’ system. The two wish to resolve the disputes regarding Census results first and have also refused to start the process of delimitation in their provinces.

Experts say the local government system in the cantonment areas of the country needs a major overhaul. They say uniformed officials, and not elected representatives of the citizens, mostly run these institutions.

The writer can be reached at    [email protected]

Local body systems