LAHORE: “No, sir, I cannot continue to represent my electorate any further in such an uncertain situation,” insists a general councillor-elect from union council-25 of northern Lahore, the part of the provincial metropolis infamous for lacking civic amenities, while threatening to tender his resignation from the office he has not yet taken charge of.
“Voters are making my life miserable by daily asking me when I’ll actually be resolving their civic problems in the area,” argues Shaan, elected as councillor on PML-N ticket in the local body polls held on Oct 31 last year, as regular functioning of union councils is not in sight in the near future.
The reason being litigation by the opposition parties on giving retrospective effect to some changes the government introduced in the law governing the bodies two days after the Election Commission announced a schedule for filling their seats reserved for women, technocrats, peasants/workers and youth.
The case of Shaan indicates the tremendous pressure the grassroots level elected representatives are facing from their constituents.
“Dozens of people approach us for getting resolved their petty problems related to birth/death certificates, streetlight, sewerage, etc. But, we are helplessly waiting for completion of houses (union/district councils and municipalities),” says UC-211 (Faisal Town) chairman-elect Haji Fayyaz Bhatti, who has earlier served as nazim of the same union council from 2005 to 2009.
Mr Bhatti, elected on PTI ticket, says the PPP government’s reluctance to give a meaningful role to the MQM in Karachi and Hyderabad is understandable but wonders what makes Punjab rulers from sharing powers and funds with their own party men at the grassroots level.
This dilemma is answered by some UC chairmen and councilors elect this correspondent met at the PML-N Lahore chapter offices.
The MPs, who have been hitherto using the municipal funds for development schemes of their choice for the last seven years, feared losing their role and influence in local development in case the local bodies are allowed to function, says chairman of a union council falling in PP-144, requesting not to be identified for fear of party high-command’s wrath.
Others present there put it that if the local government had been allowed to work then credit for some mega development projects would have gone to Khwaja Hassaan (likely Lahore mayor) as the provincial government would have forced to channel the funds through the Lahore Metropolitan Corporation.
Many across the political divide as well as some senior officers of the local government department also believe that as the government needed funds for the Orange train project it is meeting this need from the allocations that had to be made for the municipalities in the 2016-17 budget.
Thus, calculating the opposition’s response the government deliberately made what they say the belated controversial amendments leading to the litigation.
The Supreme Court, which has earlier decided a similar case of Sindh local bodies on April 15, will hear the Punjab case on May 25.
An official of the Election Commission says that the body is ready to hold the polls as soon as the courts decide the case, while a spokesman for the Punjab government shows inability of the administration to do anything for an earlier decision on the matter.
The spokesman says the government had discharged its responsibility by enacting the law but blamed the opposition for “unduly” delaying the completion of the local bodies by challenging a couple of sections of the law notwithstanding that either way the polls are held the ruling PML-N will sweep the same keeping in view its numerical strength in union/district councils and municipal corporations/committees.