Rejecting the 1979 Local government system, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement Coordination Committee said that the restoration of Local Government Act-1979 and issuance of its notification amounted to usurping people’s rights and an assault on democracy.
The Committee also termed the 1979 local government system `obsolete’ and vowed to use its constitutional, legal and democratic rights so as to record its peaceful protest against the system on every platform, including the Sindh Assembly, besides taking legal majors.
These views were made by MQM Coordination Committee’s Member Kunwar Naveed Jameel and other members – Ahmed Saleem Siddiqui, Yousuf Shahwani and Aslam Afridi – at a crowded press conference held here on Tuesday at Khursheed Begum Secretariat, Azizabad.
Describing the 21st Century s as “the century of devolution of powers at grass-root level, Mr Jameel said that the local government system which was in vogue worldwide – at some place in the form of towns and at other places it is known as Borough (district) – and being run by mayors and are empowered to help solve day to day problems of people.
Quoting the Articles 140-A of the Constitution’s which inter alia states:`` Each province shall by law establish a Local Government System and Devolve, Political, Administrative and Financial Responsibility and Authority to elected representatives of the Local Government,” he said that although it was mandatory upon the provinces to establish local government system strictly in accordance with the said Article, the Local Government Act-1979 did have any such powers.
He deplored that under the Local Government Act-1979 not only the elected mayors have been made subordinate to the administration but even the resolutions to be passed by the elected councils would have to sent to commissioners and it would be their prerogative of the latter to approve it or not which meant that the system was not in violation of Article 140-A but amounted to handing over the system to non-elected bureaucracy.
Lashing out the 1979 Local Government System, he said that under the system the elected local government representative would not have the money at their disposal even to meet expenditures required for ensuring cleanliness and providing clean water to their respective cities and towns.
Moreover, the powers of managing the affairs of primary schools, universities, basic health centers and civil hospitals and the responsibility of maintaining law and order would vest with the provincial government and the bureaucracy, he lamented.
He said that though the only source of revenue under the 1979 Local Government system was the octroi, the former federal government had abolished the octroi after introducing the GST which, he added, failed to generate reasonable revenue under both 2013 and 1979 local bodies systems.
Underscoring the need for devolving powers at root levels, he said that various countries including Sweden, Norway, Canada, United States of America and South Asia’s developing countries such as Philippine, Thailand and Sri Lanka, were providing best possible basic health, education and law and order facilities through their strong local governments, thereby giving rapid progress to their countries.
Even in Bangladesh, revolutionary measures aimed improving quality of life of its citizens were being taken through a vibrant local government system called “Union Parshad”, he added.
He said that it was strange that though the leaders of both the MQM and PPP during the People’s Party’s Sindh government had succeeded in framing Sindh People’s Local Government Ordinance, the PPP government shortly after MQM parted its ways from the previous coalition government, revoked the Ordinance and reintroduced the 1979 Local Government Act which clearly violated the PPP’s manifesto that was prepared by late Ms Benazir Bhutto herself.
He demanded of the government to enforce the local government system in the light of the Constitution’s Article 140-A, and make arrangements for holding local bodies elections in the province without any further delay.