LAHORE  -   Provincial Minister for Law, Parliamentary Affairs and Local Government Raja Basharat has said that role of the civil society in creating awareness about the Punjab LG Act 2019 and capacity-building of local representatives is very crucial.

He stated it during a meeting with a delegation of civil society at Darbar Hall, Civil Secretariat on Wednesday. Appreciating the new local government law, members of the delegation suggested some amendments to the law regarding reduction in the minimum age for a local government candidate from 25 to 22 years and giving 33 percent representation to women at all levels of the LGs.

Raja Basharat said the new Punjab local government law was drafted after deep consultations with. He said, “The Punjab local government law enjoys complete ownership and the commitment of the government as Prime Minister Imran Khan himself chaired almost 17 meetings during the drafting process.”

“I think the previous local governments were toothless and resourceless as the PML-N government didn’t permit them to take oath for two years,” the minister said.

“It was said that the PML-N government allocated Rs50 billion for the local governments, but actually they could receive only 10 percent of that budget. “On the other side, our local governments will receive almost Rs100 billion directly from the Punjab government. There was no separate identity of a citizen living in a vast union council but the panchayat will give him a visible identity as each village will be a separate local body in its place,” he added.

The delegation consisted of of Salman Abid, Shehzada Irfan, Bushra Khaliq, Feroza Batool, Nabila Shaheen, Umme Lela Azher, Sammia Yusuf, Shehryar Warraich and others.

On Monday, Prime Minister Imran Khan announced that powers would be devolved to grass-roots through two-tiered elections in Punjab. Talking to senior journalists, he said elections for local governments would be held directly in two tiers – at village council or panchayat level and at tehsil level. Flanked by Punjab and KP CMs Usman Buzdar and Mehmood Khan, former PTI secretary general Jahangir Tareen and others, the PM said funds would directly be transferred to village councils and tehsil nazims that would financially empower locals to decide development projects.

He said tehsil nazims can coordinate and choose a representative at district level. The prime minister said that during PTI’s last term in KP, it had formed councils in villages, which were “very popular among the people”, and the same “system will now be introduced in Punjab”. Imran said: “Rs140 billion will be allocated for local bodies in Punjab. This is the first time that a government was devolving power.”

Imran Khan said 22,000 panchayats or village councils would be set up.