LAHORE       -          The Punjab cabinet, which met CM Usman Buzdar in the chair, approved amendments to laws governing the functioning of local governments.

The Punjab government wants to amend the Punjab Local Government Act 2019 and Punjab Panchayat and Neighbourhood Council Act 2019. Under the proposed amendments, aspirants will have to get recommendation of a political party or an electoral panel while minorities will have the right to vote for reserved as well as general seats, returning officers will announce results and in case of any complaint, election tribunals will decide the matter under the election act.

Human Rights Ijaz Alam welcomed the decision of granting voting right to minorities, saying: “Chief Minister Usman Buzdar has won the hearts of minorities and the Punjab government has fulfilled their longstanding demand.

Similarly, delimitation of local areas will be undertaken under Punjab Demarcation of Local Areas Rules 2019 for establishment of succeeding local governments.  As many as 455 local bodies will be constituted in the province. The meeting approved revision of Punjab Municipal Services Programme and local governments will complete road repair and maintenance work.

The cabinet also approved the heritage and urban regeneration programme for the promotion of tourism in Lahore Fort and its buffer zone. The Royal Privacy (khalwat khana) and other areas of the fort will be restored. The hanging electricity wires will be removed along with the restoration of historically-important places around the fort. A fort museum will be established in the Lahore Fort with a soft loan worth 25.8 million dollars which will be borrowed from the French Development Agency.

The meeting decided to declare Lahore and Nakchivan city of Azerbaijan as sister cities and signing of an MOU was also approved in this regard.  This would help in promoting economic cooperation, exchange of delegations and launching of joint projects.

The cabinet approved the establishment of South Punjab Institute of Science and Technology in DG Khan along with the endorsement of decisions made in 19th provincial cabinet meeting and 16th meeting of cabinet standing committee on finance & development.  Addressing the meeting, the chief minister said that PTI government was the custodian of minorities’ rights adding that historic steps had been taken in Punjab to protect their rights and every decision was being made in consultation with the cabinet.

He asked the ministers to burn the midnight oil for public service. He hoped that local bodies system will be helpful in empowerment of the people at the grassroots as it had been designed in accordance with the needs of the time. Provincial ministers, advisors, special assistants, Chief Secretary and others attended the meeting.