Lahore: One day stakeholder’s dialogue on Punjab Local Governance Ordinance 2021 was held in Lahore to highlight the lacunas of newly proposed law. Officials of Punjab local government and community development, parliamentarians, CSOs representatives of CSOs, HRCP and a wide range of media fraternity joined in the dialogue. A collective demand to improve PLGO 2021 was raised by the stakeholders.

Stakeholders Demand Govt to Address Flaws in PLGO 2021
Ms. Kausar Khan, DG Punjab Local Government and Community Development Department

Ms. Kausar Khan, DG Punjab Local Government and Community Development Department appreciated CPDI for holding a session to record views of stakeholders about PLGO 2021. She remarked that local government is the third tier of government, current government and Punjab LG&CD is committed to improve governance and public service delivery at grassroots level.

Mr. Mukhtar Ahmed Ali, Executive Director, and 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 Mobeen ud Din Qazi, 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.

Mr. Ahmad Iqbal, Ahmad Iqbal-Chairman, District Council Narowal (2017-21). He remarked that PLGO 2021 is against the fundamental democratic values and constitution of Pakistan. He highlighted structural flaws in PLGO i.e Disenfranchisement of Punjab’s Cities, Selection criteria for Metropolitan Corporations, staggered elections, Dismissal, dissolution, suspension of Mayors and bureaucratic control and representation of minorities and women etc.

Mr. Muhammad Awais Dareshak MPA-PTI remarked that despite of bringing new laws and repealing old ones, system should focus on the implementation. Majority of the audience demanded that the Deputy Mayors’ positions must-have women representation even with special provisions. Ms. Kanwal Naseem former MPA said that condition of minimum Bachelors should persists in PLGO 2021 because educated representatives can lead in right direction. Ms. Kanwal Parvaiz Chaudhary MPA-PMLN remarked that PLGO 2021 is against the spirit of women empowerment and demanded at least 33% representation for women at all levels of committees, councils, and boards etc. Ms. Firdous Rana-MPA-PTI also endorsed the idea also recommended to broaden the consultative process during the drafting of such laws. Mr. Kamran Saqi a senior journalist stressed upon the need to consult every Segment of society before making laws especially the LG laws.

Ms. Birgit Lamm, head of country office gave closing remarks and said that political responsibility goes hand in hand with financial responsibility, this is significant for the fiscal transparency at local level. People at grassroots level shall be fully aware about their rights, budget of local government and development projects in their area. Developing democratic mindset is crucial to bring positive changes in the system and governance.

All stakeholders demanded that Provincial assembly standing committee on local government should resume their work and address flaws in the Punjab Local Government Ordinance 2021 before making it an act.