–Premier says 22,000 village councils would enable development at lower level and bring new leadership
–Rejects impression that introduction of local govts is a step towards presidential system of govt
ISLAMABAD: Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday announced that two-tiered elections will be held across Punjab to form the new municipal system in the province.
Talking to senior journalists here days after the Punjab Local Government Act 2013 was repealed in favour of the new Punjab Local Government Act 2019, Imran said that direct elections will be held in 22,000 village councils in Punjab, which he said would “enable development at a lower level and also bring in new leadership”.
The prime minister said that during Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) previous term in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), it had formed councils in villages, which were “very popular among the people”, and the same system will now be adopted in Punjab.
He said that Rs40 billion have been allocated for villages, which will be passed down directly to village councillors so that they do not have to wait for federal or provincial governments to secure development funds.
“Direct elections will also be held at tehsil level,” he said, noting that “management at district level has become harder due to expansions”.
Flanked by Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, KP Chief Minister Mehmood Khan, party’s former secretary general Jahangir Tareen and others, the prime minister said that “Rs140 billion will be allocated for local bodies in Punjab,” adding that “this is the first time that a government was devolving power”.
“When military governments were in power, they focused on municipalities. On the other hand, democratic governments put an end to municipalities and instead give the money that was supposed to be spent on the development of cities and villages to MNAs and MPAs,” he said.
In cities, direct elections will be held for mayor that will be contested by political parties, the premier said.
He said that the new local bodies system will empower city mayors to collect revenue and spend it on the welfare of urban dwellers and as well as improvement in cities’ infrastructure, development, and other matters. He added that in urban centres, mayors will be directly elected, and they will collect revenue to improve the condition of cities in a better way. The prime minister said that mayors can bring his own team of professionals to improve civic facilities.
He lamented that Karachi, Lahore and other urban cities in Pakistan could not be developed because they could not generate enough revenue.
Prime Minister Imran cited Iran’s example, where despite sanctions, Tehran’s management had not been affected because of a strong local government system.
When asked how much of the taxation authority would be given to the city’s government, the premier did not specify but said that “if cities cannot collect taxes, the [local government] system will not be viable.”
Flanked by Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar, KP Chief Minister Mehmood Khan, party’s former secretary general Jahangir Tareen and others, the prime minister said that “Rs140bn will be allocated for local bodies in Punjab,” adding that “this is the first time that a government was devolving power.”
“When military governments [were in power], they focused on municipalities. On the other hand, democratic governments put an end to municipalities and instead give the money that was supposed to be spent on development [of cities and villages] to MNAs and MPAs,” he said.
The premier rubbished the notion that the introduction of local governments was a step towards a presidential system of government, saying: “I don’t know where these [rumours] are coming from.”
“Our government’s number one priority is to hand over the governance to the people,” he explained. “All over the world, local bodies govern on a grassroots level.”