KHALID BUTT It was on February 4 that the Punjab Assembly had passed a bill to amend the Local Government Ordinance, but it still awaits the governors signature to become law. The amendment is designed to empower the provincial government to appoint administrators to replace district, tehsil and town nazims whose terms have already expired, and that, in fact, called for the bills quick passage into law. Under Article 116, any bill passed by the assembly has to be forwarded to the governor for endorsement. And under Article 116 (2), he is bound to formally endorse it within 30 days. In case of any objection to the bill or any part thereof, he can return it to the assembly for a revision. Similarly, it is explicitly stated in Article 116 (3) that in case the governor returns the bill to the assembly, it is obliged to review it, and then re-submit it with or without any revision, after it has been duly approved by majority. It should be understood that the local government system is a provincial subject and each province is duly entitled to make laws, bring changes or amendments in the existing laws, suiting its requirements or circumstances. As an adverse impact of dictatorial rule that ended only two years back, a single individual had, on his own, drawn up a new system, delegated powers, and jurisdiction as he thought fit. He introduced a new LB system uprooting the old one. In no way was the new system capable of fulfilling the needs and aspirations of the public at large. It was also full of contradictions and loopholes, which forced its author to subsequently bring about changes in it. The introduction of the new system was also followed by a propaganda blitz that described it as genuine transfer of power to the grassroots, like district, tehsil and union councils. However, it was nothing but an illusion. In actual fact, the real power stood concentrated in one individual, in the President House. The provinces were not authorised to make even a minor change, while elections for the low-level union councillor could only be made by the chief election commissioner. In Punjab, the PML-N, long before assuming power, had declared its firm resolve to scrap this useless system to replace it with a new system that would be in consonance with public aspirations and needs. And soon after assuming power in the province, it started consultations with the three other provinces and finally convinced them to do away with the LB system the dictator had put in place. However, the 17th Amendment that the dictator had brought about in the constitution and Schedule 6 tied the hands of Punjab and, for that matter, other provinces. They were unable to change anything without the advance approval of the president. The government, therefore, had to wait till December 30, 2009, when the constitutional coverage provided to the old system lapsed and the whole authority for handling the local government institution reverted to the provinces, where it had always rightly belonged. The CM had set up a Cabinet Committee to review the local government system and its institutional structure. The committee decided upon the amendments that should bring the system into harmony with the needs of the people. It made certain recommendations and decided in principle to produce a framework of a new system incorporating those recommendations. The idea was to replace the nazims with administrators, and the bill was placed before the Cabinet for approval and after going through the process of clearance by the concerned standing committee sent to the assembly for approval. However, it appears strange that on a matter of such vital and urgent public importance, on which there has been such a welcome consensus at all levels the bill is gathering dust at the Governor House, like the recent case of appointment of judges. The bill had gone through the entire process at all levels with a commendable support from the PPP. The foot-dragging by the governor, therefore, defies logic, to say the least, especially when one compares it to the position of Sindh, where the governor signed it within 48 hours. Punjab, which had taken the lead in this issue to create a national consensus, is now lagging behind. On the other hand, Sindh that took a cue from it is forging ahead to implement the new system. The writer is a freelance columnist.