The newly proposed Punjab Local Government Ordinance 2021 leaps room for improvements. At least 33% representation for women at all levels of committees, councils, and boards is demanded by stakeholders in a seminar organized by the Centre for Peace and Development Initiative (CPDI) in collaboration with National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The seminar aimed to explore the strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities in the Punjab Local Government Ordinance 2021. A wide range of experts on local government, gender, politics, member Punjab Assembly, Representatives from Election Commission, local politicians, and academics participated in it.
Stressing the need for broad-based consultative processes, Mr. Mukhtar Ahmed Ali, Executive Director, CPDI shed light on the need of increasing the empowerment component so that the elected local government representatives feel the responsibility alongside accountability. Mr. Mukhtar presented a detailed analysis of the Ordinance, highlighting loopholes and recommendations for improvements. The ordinance says Government may entrust development authorities, PHAs, WASAs, traffic engineering/planning & water management companies to local governments through a notification. That means devolution of such bodies is Government’s discretion, not mandatory. Section 23 and 24 of the Ordinance should clearly state the devolution process with a legit time frame says Mukhtar.
Advocate Mobin ud Din, the drafter of the “Punjab Local Government Ordinance 2021” enlightened the participants about the consultation process during the drafting of ordinance. He also shared salient features of the ordinance.
Speaking at the occasion Mr. Farid Ahmed Piracha, Vice President Jamaat e Islami Pakistan said that instead of ordinances, Acts should be passed by people’s representatives as it is a democratic norm. He also stressed that local body representatives much be given honorariums like representatives at the federal and provincial levels. He emphasized that the Ordinance must be available in the Urdu language for the understanding of the majority.
Ms. Sania Kamran, MPA PTI said stressed that Workers must be given priority over others when allocating tickets for elections while technocrat seats must be added at various tiers.
Ms. Bushra Ikhlaq, a member of a civil society organization, presented the analysis of the Ordinance from the gender perspective. She said that 33% of women’s representation must be ensured at all levels of the committees and boards leading progressively to 50%. The majority of the audience demanded that the Deputy Mayors’ positions must-have women representation even with special provisions.
Mr. Nasir Abbas Baloch, a local politician from Jhang argued that agriculture must be part of the local government system to improve the supply chains of various inputs. Ms. Mehwish Sultana, member Punjab Assembly criticized that parliament has been sidestepped while making this law. Speaking at the occasion Mr. Mujeeb ur Rehman Shami, Chief Editor Daily Pakistan, stressed upon the need to consult every segment of society before making laws especially the LG laws
There was a consensus that Local Government Law must be permanent with constitutional protection only subject to amendments and must be taken as governments exactly like federal and provincial governments, not bodies. The participants lauded the importance of the local government system and appealed to the government to install this tier at the earliest possible.