LAHORE - Local government system in the Punjab does not seem to be completed by July next as scarcity of funds is impeding the process.

Sources in the government quarters say, at the end of the fiscal year 2015-16, the budgetary allocation for making the local governments in the province functional is not sufficient to meet the needs of infrastructure, equipment, staff and other allied material to the elected representatives for development works. In addition, elections for the reserved seats of women, youth, peasants/workers and minorities should have been held before the election of lord mayor, mayors, deputy mayors, chairmen and deputy chairmen at different tiers. Another factor is the matter pending before the court of law on the mode of election for reserved and top slots and the unopposed election of Khawaja Ahmad Hassan as UC chairman after he was nominated by the PML-N as lord mayor of Lahore Metropolitan Corporation. Sources say most of the funds out of Rs 400 billion allocated for development schemes in the Punjab have been spent.

A source in the government says people at the helm of affairs want Saaf Pani, education, health, roads, land and other schemes to be carried out and completed before the next budget by the district administration which has been functioning since 2009. They want the new allocation for the LG system in the next budget.

All three phases of the direct local government elections in Punjab were completed on December 5 last. Since then next two phases of the elections are pending to make the institution functional. Earlier, the Punjab ministers hoped the bodies will be operational by February, which could not be done on account of litigation on the government decision to hold election to reserved seats and top slots through show of hands. The ordinance issued by the government in this regard was questioned by PTI, PPP, PML-Q and JI which wanted secret vote. The same issue was raised by MQM with Sindh High Court which has given a decision in favour of secret balloting, setting a precedent. The SHC hasm however, granted two months time to the government for holding secret ballot elections. As such final phases in Sindh are expected to reach after the provincial budget.

The PML-N government had announced to make local government institutions more powerful. It has so far introduced three amendments in the Local Government Act and is poised to introduce a few more, most likely in the PA session before the budget.

Sources say another factor taking time for local government completion is the litigation which the people within the ruling party had initiated against each other after the leadership finalised names for the top seats. One example is Multan where such litigation is pending.

Sources say the LG representatives at UC level have been made busy by giving them unannounced role in the development schemes which are being executed through the funds allowed to the lawmakers of the ruling party. These LG representatives have also opened offices to hear public grievances and convey the same to the high-ups. They have become active this way to some extent.

In this background, delay in the local government setup is no problem for the government.

Sources say if the litigation ends, chances are there that two phases of the election are completed and elected persons are stopped from taking oath till approval of the provincial budget in July next.

Parliamentary Secretary for Information Rana Muhammad Arshad told this scribe that delay is on the part of the Election Commission and the party is ready to enter the next phases anytime. He said at the party level homework is complete and names have been finalised for the top offices.