On the orders of the Supreme Court, the Punjab government has prepared the draft for the Local Bodies Act 2021 for holding local body elections.
The draft has been sent to the law department which will review it and then send the draft back to the provincial cabinet.
After the cabinet’s approval of the draft, the governor would issue an ordinance.
The Punjab government wishes to see village council elections held in March while that of neighbourhood elections in September or October.
However, it is up to the Election Commission of Punjab to conduct elections in the province in phases or to hold local body elections in villages and towns simultaneously on the pattern of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
On the direction of the Punjab government, the Local Government Department has prepared a draft of the Local Government Act 2021 according to which the local body elections will now be held directly on a party basis across the province.
Political parties will allocate tickets and election symbols to their nominees. The said draft for the Local Government Act seeks to empower elected representatives and institutions.
The Local Government Act 2013 was enacted during the previous regime in which Municipal Services, Primary Health, Education etc., were excluded, but now the draft for the Local Government Act 2021 has been framed by the present government according to which various departments of Punjab have been subordinated to the local government system so that the problems of the people can be solved at the local level.
PHA, all development authorities, WASA, TEPA, waste management companies, district health and education authorities, social welfare department, population department and sports will be subordinated to the local bodies. In the new Act, the government had earlier made the local government system at the tehsil level because in the KP, instead of districts, tehsil system is being practiced. Therefore, the Punjab government wanted to bring the local body system in this style on which the work was completed.
It was also approved by the chief minister and the prime minister, but soon ground realities came to light, and now the local government system is being formed at the district level instead of tehsil level across Punjab according to which now 11 metropolitan corporations are being formed including Sialkot and Gujarat along with nine divisional districts across Punjab.
Around 109 municipal committees will be formed. As many as 125 town committees are being formed and 35 district councils will also be formed. Mayors and deputy mayors will be elected directly by the people. The metropolitan corporations will have one mayor and two deputy mayors. They do not seem to have the authority but will be able to fulfill their responsibilities in the absence of the mayor. The Municipal Corporation and the Municipal Town Committees will have one mayor and one deputy mayor. At the level of residents in villages, the elected representatives in the Village Councils and Neighborhood Councils are now named chairman and vice chairman instead of Nazim who will contest the elections along with the panel of their respective political party.
Voters will cast just one vote for the panel of their choice which all the candidates will get. Youth, minorities, farmers, women as well as businessmen will be represented in the local body elections.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 20th, 2021.