ISLAMABAD - The two-tier local bodies system for Punjab approved by Prime Minister Imran Khan would increase provincial government’s control over the districts besides enhancing administrative influence of the sitting MNAs and MPAs in their respective districts.

Prime Minister Imran Khan approved the draft law while chairing PTI’s parliamentary party meeting in Lahore on Wednesday seeking to abolish existing District Council to make two-tier local bodies system in the province.

Although it is premature to comment on the draft law unless it is passed by the provincial assembly, the effort to introduce two-tier local bodies system is akin to what the PTI government is doing in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.

Prime Minister Imran Khan’s ruling party had introduced three-tier local bodies system including District Council in the province after it came into power in 2013 general elections.

But now the PTI government is also abolishing the District Council and bringing it to two-tier local bodies system in the province. The KP government is also busy to finalise the draft seeking to amend the local bodies laws it had introduced five years ago. The provincial government is expected to pass the new law before the budget session.

PTI trying to secure wider political support, appease MPs through new system

According to former KP local government minister Inayatullah who was part of the exercise of introducing the current local body system in the province as a senior minister in the last PTI government the proposed end to the district tier of the LG system was a violation of Articles 32, 37 and 140-A of the Constitution.

He was of the view “If the provincial government doesn’t withdraw its decision of abolishing district councils through the proposed drastic amendments to the KP Local Government Act, 2013, anyone can challenge it in the court of law. And if that happens, I am sure that the court will instantly issue a stay order against those amendments”.

So is the case with Punjab government which also seeks to get abolish District Council in the new local bodies system wants to get the proposed draft law passed by the Provincial Assembly before the budget session.

The salient features of the proposed new draft law unveiled by the Punjab Law Minister Raja Basharat suggest that Tehsil Councils and Panchayats will be introduced in the rural areas in place of the district council and the union councils of the previous system.

While the neighborhood council would be the lowest tier of local bodies unit in the urban areas and the metropolitan corporations and municipal corporations will perform at divisional and tehsil levels at the second tier of the new local bodies system in Punjab.

As per details 22,000 Panchayats will replace 3100 union councils in the province in order to broaden the scope of public representation and funds to the tune of 40 billion rupees will directly be transferred to Panchayats from the provincial government.

Elections of Panchayats and neighborhood councils would be held on non-party basis while the elections for the higher tier will be direct and party-based. Religious minorities will also have representation.

Elections of the Panchayat and Neighbourhood Councils will be held in November this year and local government elections in May 2020.

Political and constitutional experts believed that federal government has to amend the law ahead of amending the local bodies system in the provinces. Otherwise, they warned the government effort would amount to violation of the Constitution.

Background discussions with opposition parties and constitutional experts suggest that PTI and its coalition partners are trying secure two political objectives which include securing wider political support at the grassroots level through the new local bodies system.

They also believed that abolishing the District Council means to them that PTI and its coalition partners also want to appease their elected MNAs and MPAs not only by keeping political and administrative influence in their respective districts but with continued policy of obliging  them through development funds.