LAHORE - A civil society network comprising NGOs has rejected the Punjab Local Government (amendment) Ordinance 2016.

Provincial Governance Support group, Pattan development Organization and Free and Fair Election Network (FAFEN) have opposed the two new amendments in the ordinance, wherein the manner to elect the chairman and vice chairman of district council and municipal committee as well as mayors and deputy mayors of metropolitan corporations and municipal corporations has been changed from ‘secret ballot’ to ‘by open division’.

In a press release, the Provincial Governance Support Group members stated that the election of reserved seats has been substituted with nomination on the basis of proportional representation system of political parties’ list of candidates in order of priority and total number of candidates of general seats secured by political party, depriving the independently elected members their rights.

They also opposed the ‘unjustified’ enhanced number of the reserved seats for ‘technocrats’ and ‘youth members’. They called for setting aside the impugned amendments pleading that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) should be asked to refrain from holding the upcoming election for reserved seats as well as seats for mayors, deputy mayors, chairmen and vice chairmen. The government was illegally bent upon giving amended provisions a retrospective effect and even requested the ECP to withdraw its schedule, they added. They stated that giving the retrospective effect to the amendments made in the PLGA 2013 after the announcement of the schedule of election was a sheer mollified of the Punjab government.

They maintained that Article 226 of the Constitution specifically provided that all elections under the constitution shall be held by secret ballot. They also stated that the secret ballot was a voting method to prevent attempts to influence the voter by intimidation, adding that the secret ballot protects political privacy and curbs corruption. They are of the view that the ‘secret ballot’ is a proper way of electing leadership whereas open division method is a vote for cash and not vote for democracy, adding that the impugned amendments have been issued after the election schedule of the LG elections.