Absence of Local Bodies amounts to violation of Article 140-A of Constitution
THE Punjab government suffered a set-back when the Supreme Court ordered restoration of local government institutions in the province after declaring their dissolution as unconstitutional.
Section 3 of the Punjab Local Government Act 2019 whereby the local bodies were dissolved is declared ultra-vires of the Constitution and the local governments as were existing in Punjab prior to the promulgation of the section 3 stand restored and it shall complete its term in accordance with law ie till the 31 Dec 2021.
The remarkable decision of Supreme Court is an important win for the people, whole mandate is frequently invalidated through the premature dissolution of LGs.
It will go a long way in consolidating democracy in the country in general and deepening local democracy in particular.
Majority of the members of local government institutions in Punjab belonged to the PML-N.
Autonomous local governments are considered the building blocks of a functional democracy the world over.
No governance, financial and administrative reforms can be successfully implemented in the absence of a strong, powerful and steadily LG system.
Sadly, our political parties and leaders have never felt comfortable with grassroots democracy because they don’t want to share powers with locally erected representatives of the people in spite of the crucial role of LGs in service delivery.
Hence politicians repeatedly find them introducing new LG systems to suit their political interests and wind up existing ones on coming to power.
The present government is no exception. What it did in Punjab, and the tactics it has employed to delay local elections since May 2019 when a new law was introduced only reflects the prevailing mind-set across political parties.
If the federal government is serious about consolidating local democracy as it claims, it is time it started working on strengthening the weak constitutional cover given under Articles 32 and 140-A to local government institutions to ensure their continuity, and financial and administrative empowerment by building on the Supreme Court decision.
Without meaningful constitutional cover, the provinces and the political parties ruling them will continue to find ways of keeping LG institutions powerless and weak and roll back local democracy whenever it does not suit their interests.
—The writer is former Federal Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan and currently Chairman National Democratic Foundation.