—-UC vice chairmen threaten to form their own party ahead of general elections if demands not met
LAHORE: Local Government (LG) councillors and vice chairmen of Union Councils (UCs) hailing from all parts of the province, including Lahore, staged a sit-in outside the Punjab Assembly on Thursday and demanded more ‘powers’ in order to carry out development work in their respective constituencies before the General Elections 2018.
Per details, local bodies’ representatives, under the banners of Councillor Unity Punjab and Punjab Vice Chairman Ittehad, blocked the Mall Road while demanding amendments in the Local Government Act, 2013, in order to seek more powers to undertake development works in their respective constituencies ahead of the general elections.
Talking to Pakistan Today, Punjab Vice Chairman Ittehad President Dr Sardar Sabtain Ali said they were all compelled to come out on the roads due to the consistent lackluster attitude shown by government in connection with this issue. It was the sixth time that we have staged protests on the roads during the last two years since we were first elected to our respective offices, he added.
“Today, vice chairmen and councillors from Okara, Sahiwal, Pakpattan, Kasur, Faisalabad, Multan, Dera Ghazi Khan (DGK), Vehari, Muzaffargarh, Narowal, and Sheikhupura districts have come here to record their protest. Elected representatives of the public from other districts would also join us tomorrow (March 16),” Sabtain said. We plan to stage the sit-in here for a few days if our demands were to be rejected by the government, he added.
Ali further said that he was paying for development work in his UC from his own pocket because he did not receive even a single penny from the government since his elected as UC 131 vice chairman that falls in NA 123 Lahore constituency.
He said there were 4,043 vice chairmen in Punjab and they have the support of over 2,500 UC vice chairmen, adding that around 200 vice chairmen, out of 274 from Lahore, were also a part of their association.
“We would all resign and announce our own panels for the upcoming general elections under the banner of Punjab Vice Chairmen Ittehad if the government does not pay any heed to our demands,” he warned.
Another UC Vice Chairman Ghulam Murtaza, who came all the way from Vehari, shared his frustration with this scribe and said that he no longer moves freely in his constituency because he lacked the courage to face his voters who elected him for the sole purpose of initiating development works in his respective UC.
“The development fund is disbursed in the joint account of UC chairmen, and the secretary of the UC and vice chairmen have no authority to utilise the fund, despite the fact that they were also voted to their respective positions in a similar process followed for the election of chairmen,” he said in a dejected voice.
Malik Taimoor Awan, a councillor from UC 160 of Lahore, said that he was a diehard worker of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and got elected on the party ticket, but still he could not get a single penny from the government during the last three years.
“I would establish my own camp on the election day and would urge my voters and supporters not to cast their votes in the favour of PML-N as a protest,” he said, while adding that the ruling party could not win the elections without the support of local representatives who were more in touch with people at the grass roots level.
Meanwhile, some UC vice chairmen held a press conference at Lahore Press Club on Thursday evening and announced to distance themselves from the protest that was taking place outside the Punjab Assembly. On the occasion, they vowed to support PML-N.
It is pertinent to mention here that the vice chairmen who pledged their support to PML-N hailed from NA-119 and NA-120 – the constituencies of Hamza Shahbaz and Kulsoom Nawaz respectively – and they received ample funds during their tenure because they were supervising development works in the traditional constituencies of the Sharif family.
“Our team held negotiations with the Government of Punjab Spokesperson Malik Ahmed, Punjab Minister for Local Government Mansha Ullah Butt, provincial minister and PML-N Lahore General Secretary Khawaja Imran Nazir, and Kasur district Chairman Rana Sikandar. Unfortunately, all rounds of negotiations failed,” Sabtain Ali told this scribe.
The demonstrators were still protesting outside the provincial assembly till the filing of this report.