Byline: Amjad Abbas Khan and Samia Jamshed
The year 2013 marked some successful events for the democratic configuration in Pakistan especially in the wake of general elections and subsequent transfer of democratic powers. The political parties in their campaigns had promised to establish local bodies after assuming power. Following the order of Supreme Court, all the provincial governments submitted the local government plans for their respective provinces after few months. This was another positive step towards the success of democracy in the country.
On August 21, 2013 the Provincial Assembly of Punjab passed the Punjab Local Government Act 2013. The Act was a controversial subject because all opposition parties, religious groups, Lahore High Court Bar Association and non-government organizations (NGOs) launched a protest movement against it. They also filed a petition against it in Lahore Court on August 24, 2013.
If we examine right from the history, Local Government is the subject in Pakistan which raises the eyebrows of all political parties. The party leaders start to give their justifications on the delaying and discontinuity in the development of the area of local bodies. It is a fact that our political leaders had always tried to get rid of the formation of local authorities while on the other side our military dictators had always established this basic ingredient of democracy under the umbrella of their dictatorship. The system of Basic Democracies 1959, Local Bodies Ordinance 1979 and Devolution Plan 2000 are really good examples of this artefact. Among all three systems, Devolution Plan 2000 was quite different on many terms. Since the establishment of Devolution Plan 2000 and Sindh Balochistan Punjab NWFP (SBPN) Ordinance 2001, a change in the local government system of Pakistan has been seen. The plan continued till the year 2010 but not in its actual form.
The Punjab Local Government Act 2013 was claimed to be a new system of laws differing from Devolution Plan 2000 on many terms. But the hot topics which captured the attention were the revival of the office of Deputy Commissioner (DC) and recommencement of rural-urban division. The office of DCO was replaced and all of its powers and status are shifted to Chief Officer.
A two-tier system for the rural sector is presented consisting of Unions and District Councils which was criticized by the opposition members, NGO's and Lahore High Court. In the previous plan of 2000, the strong role of the Tehsil Municipal Administrations (TMA's) was experienced under the Tehsil Council which now has totally terminated. However, the Punjab Local Government Act 2013 has revived many provisions of the Devolution Plan 2000 in order to form its desired local government system, which is yet to be established.
The last phase of local government elections in Punjab was completed on December13, 2016 whereas the Heads of local councils took oath to their offices across the province on December31, 2016. It's been three years, the Punjab Local Government Act 2013 was presented but now things are changed due to many modifications in the Act, among which one of is the Civil Administration Ordinance 2016. If we carefully examine the Punjab Local Government Act 2013, we can clearly find the distortion regarding the office and powers of Deputy Commissioner. Between these three years there was a confusion that either the office of District Coordination Office (DCO) would continue or the Commissioner system would be revitalized. Now the scenario of Local Bodies has been changed after 17 years since Devolution Plan 2000 was presented.
To understand this new power tussle, a detailed account has been presented regarding the powers and authorities enjoyed by the key offices of Local Council under both the Local Government Plans of Punjab 2001 and 2013.
The Elected Heads of District Council - NazimVs Chairman
The ZilaNazimenjoyed excessive powers and command under the Punjab Local Government Ordinance 2001. It brought many new members in the politics by giving them substantial powers as elected heads of the districts. Though, the District Heads were elected on indirect mode but these were made superior over the provincial bureaucracy, police services and other tiers of local government like Tehsil and Union councils. A new identity with some powerful functions was given to the office by using the name of ZilaNazim. It has been assumed that the District Heads elected under the Local Government Act 2013 would not be as authorized as the ZilaNazims. The reason behind this is the resurgence of Deputy Commissioner Office,which has minimized the powers of elected heads. They have been deprived of many financial, executive and administrative duties which were given to ZilaNazim.
Financial Powers of ZilaNazim
Under the Punjab Local Government Ordinance 2001, the ZilaNazimwas responsible for maintaining administrative and financial discipline in the District Government andmaintaining the intra-district fiscal transfers. He was also entitled to present tax proposals to theZila Council.1
Among these mentioned assents by ZilaNazim, the District Council Chairman under Punjab Local Government Act 2013 is only empowered to propose tax proposals to the council.2 The Director-General Audit of the province could cause the audit of District Provincial Account on the request of Nazim.3
In order to take further necessary action, the report made by Local...