Home > LG councillors, MPAs lock horns

LG councillors, MPAs lock horns

Parlia­mentar­ians critic­ise excess­ive interf­erence of LG repres­entati­ves

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly in session. PHOTO: AFP

Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly in session. PHOTO: AFP

PESHAWAR: With a new local government system come fresh challenges as elected councillors try to find their footing in the provincial set-up without stepping on the toes of parliamentarians. However, that is exactly what the grass-root level representatives have done straight off the bat by taking action against officials. 

The matter of powers granted to local government representatives, especially district nazims and naib nazims, came to a boil during a heated debate at the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Assembly. On a point of order, Qaumi Watan Party’s Bakht Baidar Khan from Dir—a Jamaat-e-Islami stronghold—slammed nazims for what he called “excessive interference in civil administrative affairs at the district and tehsil level”.

He was supported by Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl’s Malik Munawar Khan and Shah Hussain as well as Awami National Party’s Syed Jaffar Shah. QWP’s status as a fourth partner in the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led coalition was reinstated when both parties recently signed a 13-point agreement at Bani Gala in Islamabad.

MPAs from the other three components of the ruling coalition remained silent over the matter, but K-P Assembly Speaker Asad Qaisar could not contain his discontent. He was annoyed over the fact that councillors were empowered to look after administrative affairs and suggested the matter be discussed in a result-oriented debate introduced through an adjournment motion. In Qaiser’s hometown, the ANP-affiliated district nazim has imposed a ban on transfers and postings. This move is seen as a challenge to the authority of the speaker himself and the ruling PTI. Meanwhile, the mover of the adjournment motion and his supporters suggested the government frame rules of business to clarify the powers of elected MPAs and councillors to stabilise and strengthen all democratic institutions.

Mass confusion

No force other than PTI, especially Chairperson Imran Khan, deserves credit for the restoration of local government institutions after a gap of around six years. However, the present structure is rather different.

In the past, polls were held for local governments elected in 1979, 2001 and 2005 after the rules of business were framed for various institutions. On this occasion, first elections were held, secondly nazims were appointed and only now is the government sitting down to form terms of reference for local government institutions.

After the polling and appointment process was completed in September, a strange tug of war started throughout the province. Councillors affiliated with opposition parties started demanding rights according to the Local Government Act, 2013.

Conflicting statements from ministers and PTI office bearers also exasperated an already tense situation. Making matters worse were threatening statements from Chief Minister Pervez Khattak, putting the future of most recently restored institutions at stake. Khattak said he was “trying his best to bring district and town nazims under control” by making budgetary allocations and other decisions possible only through a consensus. It also must be noted a development budget can only be released once the PFC frames a constitution for its distribution and utilisation.

ANP’s Syed Jaffar Shah, while supporting Baidar, said, “Bureaucrats are cashing in on the ambiguity.” He added it was imperative for Khattak and other PTI leaders to realise the importance of the power-sharing formula between councillors and MPAs.

Minister for Local Government Inayatullah Khan said work on forming business rules are in progress and efforts are afoot to form it through a consensus. He added that as a result, everyone would be in a better position to understand their responsibilities.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 5th, 2015.

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