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The Daily Times

Published Date: Aug 7, 2013

Civil society presents charter of demands

Civil society organisations on Tuesday mooted several demands for
amendment into the Punjab Local Government Bill 2013, including a
provision for grievance redressal management mechanism that may enable
citizens to hold their elected councils accountable to them and pressed
the provincial government to incorporate all such suggestions in the
bill.
In different seminars and conferences, civil society lashed out
at the drafted LG bill presented by Punjab government and raised
serious concerns over government’s ignorance on some important issues.
Some
of their demands include that LG should be considered ‘third tier’ of
governance with a constitutional guarantees and safeguards against any
unlawful abrogation in their affairs in a manner not prescribed in the
law. There should be no rural-urban divide in the application of local
government. The strength of union council should be not less than 18
members in addition to seats of mayor/deputy mayor.
They further
demanded that there should be a minimum of 33 percent proportion of
representations for women, 10 percent for peasants/labour and 5 percent
for non-Muslim (with gender balance) through reservation of seats in all
three tiers of local governments to be filled through party-based and
constituency-based direct election in a joint electorate system.
They said the same principle must be ensured for all sub-committees, boards and commissions at all tiers.
LG
should be given fiscal autonomy to run their affairs with the rights to
collection of taxes, in accordance with provincial context. A balance
of authority should be created whereby elected representatives,
Musalihati
Anjumans, neighbourhood councils, citizen community boards and other
sub-structures at UC, tehsil and district level must be set up through
principles of parity, equality and gender-based participation.
An
autonomous Local Government Commission (LGC) need to be established
under the chairpersonship of chief minister or his/he
representative/minister to look after LG affairs.
Allocations of
development funds to elected councils and elected representatives should
be made through transparent, fair, right-based and need-based process. A
minimum of 30 percent of the district government budget should be
allocated on women-specific development plans and schemes.
New local
government legislation in all provinces should empower and charge the LG
to develop and execute disaster risk reduction and disaster management
plans under the technical guidance and supervision of Provincial
Disaster Management Authority.
The new LG legislation in all
provinces should make a provision for grievance redressal/complaint
management mechanism enabling citizens to hold their elected councils
accountable to them and to check discriminatory practices.
LG should be subject to accountability and transparency under the constitutional and legal framework of the province.
The
civil society organisations working under, ‘AAWAZ Voice’ held a
provincial conference titled “Devolution of Power: Punjab local
government act 2013” in which Aurat Foundation (AF), South Asia
Partnership-Pakistan (SAP-PK), Strengthening Participatory Organisation
(SPO), Sungi Development Foundation, Sustainable Development Policy
Institute (SDPI) were participated in the conference.
The SAP-PK
Executive Director Tahseen Siddique, Mumtaz Mughal, Zakia Ashraf, Salman
Abid of SPO, Aimal Khattak of Sangi Development, Ameer ul Azeem of
Jamat-e-Islami, Faiza Malik of Pakistan People’s Party, Mehmood ur
Rasheed of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, Waqas Akhtar of Pakistan Muslim
League-Q, Gurmeet Singh of Sikh Community and representatives of non
government organisations were also present on the occasion.
Participants
criticised the government for not including several important points in
the LG bill. They also presented a charter of demands against
government to add their demands in the Bill.
Separately, Bargad, a
youth development organisation, said the LG bill had ignored promises
made by the Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif under the officially approved
Punjab Youth Policy 2012 by Punjab government to allocate five percent
quota for youth in the LG elections.
Executive Director of Bargad,
Sabiha Shaheen, said political empowerment of youth as envisioned by
Punjab youth policy 2012 seemed in doldrums since section 12 and 15 and
the First Schedule in the Local Government Bill 2013 which deals with
the composition and number of local government are silent on the quota
for youth in the newly proposed bill.
She demanded that the Chief
Minister Shahbaz Sharif and youth Minister Rana Mashood Ahmad khan
should immediate take notice of the situation and allocate five percent
quota for youth in the coming local government elections as promised
earlier.
"It is the right time that Government of Punjab adheres to
what it has pledged to the youth of province as it has successfully
implemented other youth development initiatives within the policy
framework like Youth Internship Programme and Youth Help Line", she
added.
Meanwhile, PATTAN has also shown their dissatisfaction over
the issue. Their representatives demanded to improve
councillor-population ratio, increase in quota for women and
disempowered social groups, removal of and creation of linkages with
National Disaster Risk Reduction Policy.