LAHORE - Punjab has finalised the draft for new local bodies’ system which envisages party-based direct election of mayors and deputy mayors for the cities.

The rural areas will have directly elected chairmen and deputy chairmen, and their election will also be held on party basis.

However, the members of neighbourhood councils in cities and village councils in rural areas would be elected in a non-party based election. The existing union council in the cities under the present system has been renamed as neighbourhood council.

These councils will have three elected and an equal number of non-elected members. Three seats have been reserved for youth, women and minorities. A population base of 10,000 to 20,000 has been fixed for these councils depending on various factors.

A different mode of election for three directly elected seats of councillors in a neighbourhood and village council has been proposed. The candidates coming at number first, second and third position would be declared elected out of any number of candidates contesting for the three seats.

There would be no tier of tehsil municipalities in the new system.

Under the proposed law, 30 percent funds meant for Annual Development Programme (ADP) of provincial government would be given to the local bodies to carry out development work. Similarly, 30 percent of total budget allocation of provincial local government department would be given to the neighbourhood and village councils for their development schemes. These recommendations will be sent to Prime Minister Imran Khan for final approval.

The draft law for new local bodies was finalised here Tuesday in a meeting chaired by Punjab Senior Minister Abdul Aleem Khan and attended by Minister for Law Mohammad Basharat Raja and senior officers of the concerned departments.

The Senior Minister told the meeting that it would be for the first time in history that Punjab Government would be handing over 30 percent funds of its developmental budget to the local bodies’ institutions.

Abdul Aleem Khan further told the meeting that there would be no overlapping of functions as the jurisdiction of each tier - provincial, district and neighbourhood/village council - would be clearly defined in the new law. The Senior Minister said even a councillor would be recommending developmental schemes and spending millions of rupees for the welfare of the masses under the new system.

The minister further stated that financial and administrative powers enjoyed by the chief minister in the past would now be with the mayor of every city and people’s problems would be solved at local level as per their aspirations.

He claimed that new local bodies’ set up in Punjab would be one of its own kind and even the political opponents would not be able to raise finger. Aleem Khan said that Punjab Government had completed its homework in this regard and now the recommendations would be presented to Prime Minister Imran Khan for final decision.

Meanwhile, Punjab Chief Minister Sardar Usman Buzdar Tuesday said there was no room for an obsolete local bodies system in the new Pakistan as it had failed to solve the problems of the masses at the grassroots level. He said that new local bodies’ institutions will be strengthened and made fully operational. “The power and authority will be devolved at the grassroots level so that problems of the people could be solved at their doorsteps,” he said, adding that new system would provide the necessary relief to the people.

Buzdar said that the government will grant authority to the local bodies’ representatives and a system of checks and balances will also be put in place to ensure transparency at every level. “The representatives of the people will be answerable to the people as the new system focused primarily on the general public and timely resolution of their problems,” he said.

The chief minister said that local bodies’ institutions were being strengthened for achieving the goal of a new Pakistan. “The new system would depict the desires and aspirations of the people,” he concluded.