Islamabad-Advocating further political, administrative and financial devolution, experts on Wednesday pointed out several flaws in the Islamabad local government (LG) system.
A review report launched by INSPIRING Pakistan and Pattan Development Organisation, Islamabad called for legislative amendments and rules of business in Islamabad Capital Territory and to transfer all local functions that are being carried out by the federal and other agencies to union councils (UC) and Metropolitan Corporation.
The joint research report “Local Governance in the Federal Capital: A Review of the 2015 Islamabad Local Government System”, said that this is the first time the whole city has LG system with a five-year tenure.
The report observed that some of the grounds for arbitrary dismissal of local government and officials by higher officials have been removed. However, the Islamabad-based civil society organisations urged further steps to improve and strengthen the system. It said federal government can dissolve the LGs during national elections but neither this act nor country’s constitution mandates immediate re-elections for LGs, unlike the 90-day mandate for national assemblies.
“The Act must be modified to mandate only at most limited suspension of LGs during national elections and holding of LG elections within 90 days after end of term or early dissolution”, the report recommended. It further said Islamabad LG system is based on an act of parliament and not a constitutional amendment, which means that future federal governments can abolish it.
The report suggested that certain critical aspects of LG systems, e.g. immediate re-elections, sufficient political, administrative and financial devolution, and protection against arbitrary interference by higher authorities, must be protected through a clause in the federal constitution not only for Islamabad but all LG bodies throughout the country.
It further recommended that a clear basis for forming new UCs and determining the ratio between urban and rural areas must be designed and mentioned clearly in the legislation.
The review report expressed concern that a large number of affluent candidates have captured the seats reserved for peasants and workers (low-income people).
There is a need to circumscribe the federal authority so as to strike the right balance between federal supervision and LG autonomy, it said.
It said one finds no clear mention of the key municipal functions like policing, education, transport and economic development in the act. Functions usually performed by LGs are diffused across a number of federal and other authorities, in particular the Islamabad Capital Territory administration (ICTA), Capital Administration and Development Division and Capital Development Authority (CDA), it added.
“A streamlined process must be adopted where all municipal functions are mentioned clearly in the legislation. There should be separate full-time heads of CDA and ICTA who report to the Mayor,” the report suggested.
Councillors must be given job descriptions, offices and training on their roles and staff rights must be protected through appropriate legislation and CDA and other employees being transferred to LGs does not lose any existing rights, the report said. The list of key taxes allowed to LGs must be reviewed and key taxes usually falling under the purview of LGs must be included to give greater financial autonomy to LGs, it recommended.
It expressed concern that no budget has been allocated to LGs so far for the current year and councillors are unclear about funds availability for their areas. The report further said that katchi abadis, villages and sectors in the G and I series house the majority of Islamabad’s population but currently enjoy much lower levels of municipal services. “Such areas must be allocated adequate funds to meet their needs for good-quality municipal services,” it suggested.
Calling for further changes to the local government system, INSPIRING Pakistan Executive Director Dr Niaz Murtaza said that rights of LGs have no constitutional protection. He lamented that federal government has undue rights of interfering in Municipal Corporation Islamabad (MCI). He called for protection of rights of MCI employees transferred from CDA. Education and health taxes should be collected by the corporation which has no budget so far, he said.
Pattan National Coordinator Sarwar Bari emphasised the need to strengthen the electoral process for reserved seats for peasants and workers to curb the practice of elite capture of these seats, as happened in the last elections.
Professor SM Nasim said that the LG ordinance is a showpiece. He said that the government wants to do what it intends and does not follow the law.
Fauzia Arshad, a UC chairperson, said that women are not given protection so that they could go out to earn a living. She said that distribution of funds is being done on political basis. In the question hour, a minority councillor said that slums did not get justice from any platform. He said that Christian marriage is not registered in the union council register.
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Islamabad-Advocating further political, administrative and financial devolution, experts on Wednesday pointed out several flaws in the Islamabad local government (LG) system. A review report launched by INSPIRING Pakistan and Pattan Development Organisation, Islamabad called for legislative...