Ignoring governor’s objections, Punjab assembly approves amended local bodies’ law

After much hue and cry, the Punjab assembly on Wednesday finally passed a local government amendment bill, among five laws, overriding objections raised by Punjab governor on the powers given to the provincial government over local governments.

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Of the five bills and questions tabled by Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat for Wednesday’s session, the most critical bill was Punjab Local Government (amendment) Bill 2022.

The bill had been passed by the provincial legislature on September 14. But Punjab Governor Baleeghur Rehman refused to sign it into law, raising objections.

The bill was again presented on the floor of the house on Wednesday with two amendments.

The amendment directs the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) to delimit urban areas in a district falling within the remits of a Metropolitan Corporation, defunct Municipal Corporation, defunct Municipal Committee, defunct Town Committee into urban Union Councils, with an average population of 25,000.

Similarly, the ECP must delimit rural areas in a district council into rural UCs with an average population of 25,000.

Moreover, the bill empowers the government to declare a rural UC, having urban characteristics, as an urban UC on the recommendation of the Deputy Commissioner of the area and by simply issuing a notification the official gazette.

Similarly, urban UCs can be declared as rural UCs through a notification.

Such changes shall be effective from the next local government elections.

The second amendment related that local government employees would be appointed through the Punjab Public Service Commission.

Curiously, it noted that employees of the Punjab Local Government Service can be posted anywhere within the province and are not required to serve only in their native UC.

The amendment further stated that all contractual employees of the Punjab Local Government Service, appointed through Punjab Public Service Commission against sanctioned posts, would be automatically given permanent jobs on their posts once their contracts conclude.

During the session, opposition parties pointed out absence of quorum, however, the treasury benches paid no heed to it and pressed ahead to pass the Punjab Ehsaas Program Bill 2022 – the project seeks to reboot at the provincial level the welfare project, a flagship of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led federal government.

Moreover, the Punjab Seed Corporation Bill, Factory Amendment bill, Forest Amendment Bill, and Punjab Occupational Safety and Health (Amendment) Bill 2020, were passed without any change.

All of these laws had been sent back by the Punjab governor with objections.

Pakistan Muslim League –Nawaz (PML-N) Khalil Tahir Sandho said in a point of order that under article 90, no one can talk about institution, religion and Armed forces chief, and Azam Swati in his tweet criticized the chief of army staff (COAS).

The session was adjourned to meet again on tomorrow (Thursday).

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