Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Special Initiatives Asad Umar on Sunday termed the recent amendments to the Sindh local government law "a danger to Pakistan", saying it divested the public representatives at the grassroots level of powers and autonomy.
The amended local government bill was passed by the Sindh Assembly on Nov 26, 2021 amid strong protest and boycott of the proceedings by the opposition parties, who objected to what termed the curtailment of powers of elected representatives under the new legislation.
The opposition parties — mainly Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, Jamaat-i-Islami, Pak Sarzameen Party and Grand Democratic Alliance — in the province have been staging protests and clamouring to repeal the amendments.
PSP chairman Syed Mustafa Kamal, whose party has no representation in the assembly, had also announced launching what he called a decisive movement from Jan 2 against the LG law.
In his presser in Karachi today, Umar said Pakistan would continue to be embroiled in "tension" until provinces, Sindh in particular, fairly devolved powers at the grassroots level. "The devolution of power to the local level is quite necessary for democracy and governance in the country."
The minister said an each province comprised people from different ethnic backgrounds and "for that reason, the entire country should not be run from Islamabad, as we need to empower the lower segment," he added.
Umar said the government would keep raising its voice in the parliament and continue the legal battles until the "unreasonable" amendments to the local government law in Sindh were revoked.
The local government bill has already become a law despite the fact that the governor had refused to sign off on it.
As per constitutional requirement, the bill was sent to Sindh Governor Imran Ismail for his assent. However, he returned the legislation, with around 10 objections to the assembly for reconsideration.
On Dec 11, the ruling party had addressed some of the objections raised by the governor, including removing a clause that allowed election of mayor/chairman through secret ballot and reviving a condition that only an elected LG representative can contest the mayoral election when it got passed the LG bill again.
However, the provincial government had refused to return the functions of health and education to municipalities, which in the words of the opposition had been ‘snatched’ from the local governments. and passed the bill, before sending it to the governor again for his assent. This time, however, the bill became a law even without the governor's nod.
According to Article 116 of the Constitution: “When the Governor has returned a Bill to the Provincial Assembly, it shall be reconsidered by the provincial assembly and, if it is again passed, with or without amendment, by the provincial assembly, by the votes of majority of the members of the provincial assembly present and voting, it shall be again presented to the Governor and the Governor shall give his assent within 10 days, failing which such assent shall be deemed to have been given.
“When the Governor has assented or is deemed to have assented to a bill, it shall become law and be called an act of provincial assembly.”
With or without the governor’s assent, “After 12 days it [LG bill] will stand implemented automatically across the province,” a spokesperson for Governor House had said.
The law abolishes district municipal corporations in urban parts of the province, replacing them with town municipal corporations.
As per the amended bill, a metropolitan corporation would consist of over 5million people; municipal corporation between 300,000 to 5m; town in metropolitan corporation 500,000 to 750,000, town in municipal corporation 125,000 to 350,000; municipal committee 50,000 to 300,000; union committee in municipal corporation 45,000 to 75,000; union council 10,000 to 25,000 people.
The new bill has deprived the local government institutions of functions like education and health as they would deal only with municipal functions such as water, sanitation and garbage disposal.
Says tension will prevail in the country until provinces, particularly Sindh, devolves all due powers at the grassroots level.