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22,000 village councils election to held in Punjab: Imran Khan

07 May, 2019

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Giving details of the Punjab Local Government Act, 2019, Imran Khan said a direct election will be held in 22,000 village councils in Punjab, for equal distribution of revenue and indiscriminate development of the entire province. “People need governance,” he said, and added that the new concept has been brought to the fore after lengthy deliberations and study of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa local government system and similar systems in vogue internationally.

He said it is for the first time that the federal government is handing over its powers to the local bodies. “Our cities are like a heap of rubble … we want our cities to grow and develop, like those in the rest of the world. We want them to generate their own funds and manage issues on their own,” he said.

Imran Khan said under the new law passed by Punjab, the mayor of a city, town and tehsil will be elected directly – in a first in South Asia. He said under the new system a mayor will be required to get a direct mandate from a large number of voters. Mayor of London Sadiq Khan received one million votes, while Erdogan also received a million votes to become mayor of Istanbul, he said, adding the new mayor will bring in his own team to manage the city affairs and will have to work hard to deliver. The new process will do away with the existing practice of using money in ‘purchasing loyalties’ for votes.

Imran Khan as a comparison mentioned the money generated by Lahore (32 million US dollars) and Karachi (21 million US dollars), which he said need to be compared with the funds generated by Tehran (500 million US dollars), Mumbai (400 million US dollars) and Bangalore (200 million US dollars). He said the previous government in Punjab spent 57 per cent of the development funds of the entire province on Lahore alone. He said an amount of over Rs 90,000 per capita was spent on development funds for Lahore, while a paltry Rs 2400 on the development of Rajanpur.

He said under the new law, over Rs 400 billion will be devolved for all local government functions, out of which over 30% (Rs 110 billion) will be allocated for the municipal services. The previous government allocated Rs 50 billion to the local government, however it was mere book transfer and not real devolution.

When asked whether he is facing resistance from the parliamentarians who used to get funds for local development, Imran Khan said, “Change is always resisted by vested interests … but we have to defeat them.”

“Nowhere in the world the MNAs and MPAs are given development funds,” Khan said, and pointed that in the past this practice led to duplication and poor management of funds. “We have learned from experiences and found out that the village councilor is far more effective and has a better understanding of the local issues.

He said all the functions will come under the authority of the mayor with checks by the council. Mayors will collect taxes and spend on their cities, modernizing the property tax regime to realize its full potential

Speaking about the union council, Imran Khan described these as an artificial creation. He said every mouza and urban neighborhood of Punjab will have a separate self-governing village council. He said 22,000 village council elections will be held on open-list system and the member scoring highest vote will head it. There will be a direct election of women, peasants, workers and minority.

He pointed that the average population size of the now defunct union councils was 22,000, while now the average size of the panchayat will be only around 3,500. He hoped that it will bring governance closer to the people.

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