LAHORE - The Punjab Assembly on Monday re-opened an already closed debate on the Local Government Bill by suspending its routine agenda set for the first sitting of its fourth session.

The reopening of the discussion on new Local Government system at a time when the Special Committee of the House has already firmed up its recommendations, came as a big surprise in the Press gallery.

A Treasury member, Rana Arshad justified reopening of the debate stating that government wanted to have maximum feedback on the new Local Government system from the Assembly members.

Faiza Malik, an Opposition member, said that Opposition was also taken into confidence over suspension of routine agenda to restart the debate.

As the session started with a delay of an hour and 50 minutes, Law Minister Rana Sanaullah requested the chair to suspend the relevant rules of procedure to allow resumption of debate on the Local Government law. The Speaker granted the permission and the debate ensued.

The members belonging to the Opposition had nothing new to say on the draft law on Local Bodies. Those who took part in the debate merely reiterated the proposals already presented in the House.

They supported financial and administrative autonomy for the Local Bodies and opposed suspension of Mayors and Chairmen by the Chief Minister. They could be removed through no-confidence motions moved in their respective councils, they argued.

Surprisingly enough, a PML-N member, Muhammad Rafique, sided with the Opposition in criticism of the Local Government bill.

He was of the view that elected representatives of people should have more powers compared to bureaucracy. He also demanded party-based Local Bodies elections as against the party line.

Quoting the example of UK where political parties actively take part in local elections, Rafique pleaded that Local Bodies were nurseries of democracy, and hence, the local polls should be held on party basis.

As demanded by some Opposition members, Rafique also came up with the suggestion that all development work should be carried out by the Local Governments and the provincial government should not interfere in their work.

Advocating party-based local elections, Faiza Malik of PPP told the House that Punjab should follow the decisions taken by the Sindh and KPK governments about holding of elections on party basis.

On delimitations at the Union Council level, she said that provincial government should have no role in it since this was the job of the Election Commission.

Faiza demanded 33 per cent representation for women in the Local Councils as was the case in the National Assembly and Provincial Assemblies.