Lahore - Although the Council of Common Interests (CCI) has approved restoration of the Executive Magistracy System but the Punjab government is still unclear on its implementation. When contacted, officers from both the provincial and federal government services serving in Punjab, though expressed their pleasure over the restoration of executive magistracy but they were numb as to how the powers given to judiciary and police would be restored. The old system of governance was abolished during military rule of Pervez Musharraf in 2001 under the local bodies’ reform process, through an amendment in the Code of Criminal Procedure, 1898.

Sources in the federal government said the restoration of executive magistracy was one of the items on the agenda of the CCI. During the last CCI meeting, the same was also approved but no further legislation could be made. All the provinces have already agreed after consultative meetings to support the proposal. An officer of the Punjab government also said the same that it was not forwarded by the Punjab government as agenda item for the CCI.

If the federal government amends the CrPC to restore the defunct executive magistracy, it will further empower them. Many of the powers gained by the judiciary and the police would be given to civil magistrates to regain control over administrative affairs in districts.

A senior officer of the Punjab Civil Secretariat while talking on the subject said the separation between the judiciary and the executive was made during 1996 but later in 2001, during Gen Musharraf military regime, powers of the executive magistrates were curtailed giving more powers to the district nazims, besides changing nomenclature of the district magistrate, used to be the deputy commissioners, to the district coordination officer (DCO). After 2002 Police Ordinance, a further cut was made on the executive powers by empowering police officers giving them final say in the security and law and order issues.

He further said that the powers given to the judiciary that had already heaps of cases burdened them further. It was not clear as how all the laws empowering the judiciary and the police would be repealed to restore magistracy, he held. He thought that during many of the meetings on the law and order, price hike, public complaints against police, and other security related issues, the Punjab CM was told that the only solution to all these problems was restoration of old magistracy. But, the federal government could not amend the relevant clauses of the CrPC to further its idea of the executive magistracy for good governance.

He said the powers given to the executive magistracy for maintenance of law and order, price control, action against adulterators and hoarders were further shunned by the 2001 devolution plan of Musharruf government entrusting more powers onto the district governments. He said after a decade or so, the federal as well as the provincial governments realized that with the restoration of executive magistracy, the writ of the government, the law and order situation and above all service delivery would be improved. The inter-provincial coordination (IPC) committee has time and again ordered the law ministry to complete the homework for restoration of an executive magistracy system but to no avail, the officer said. He said the national price monitoring committee, comprising chief secretaries and finance secretaries of the provinces had also demanded restoration of old system to control price-hike. In 2008, Dr Asim Hussain, the then National Reconstruction Bureau chief had with the chief secretaries of the provinces unanimously recommended to roll back Musharraf’s local bodies system and restore the old system. But nothing could be done, he affirmed.

Another provincial service officer, also requesting anonymity said that Balochistan government had introduced legislation on the subject but the Balochistan High Court had overturned the same. An appeal was filed in the Supreme Court against the BHC verdict, the officer held. He said that the Punjab government had prepared a draft law and forwarded the same to the federal government but no further development was seen on it. After fresh CCI meeting, he hoped that the parliament would do necessary legislation to restore it. Quoting comments of a former chief secretary on the need of restoration of the executive magistracy, he said the job of the price control officers had to be performed by the ministers, parliamentarians and the secretaries as the magistracy was missing. Their job of policy-making in the Civil Secretariat was at risk owing to these reasons, he quoted the CS as saying. He said that CM Shahbaz had repeatedly agreed to the proposal to restore magistracy for ensuring good governance. The Legal Reforms Ordinance 1996 which separated the judiciary and the executive and after promulgation of the 2002 Police Order, the civil government felt handicapped, he said adding, both the police and judiciary were likely to resist restoration of executive magistracy in its true spirit.