Under restored LG Act 2019, ‘baboos’ become administrators of local govts

Lawyers believe Punjab govt should announce LG elections instead of appointing officers as administrators of local governments

‘Baboos’ will look after the local governments as mayor, deputy mayor, chairman and the vice-chairman at their respective districts from now on till the constitution and assumption of the office by the elected local governments as the Punjab government has restored the Local Government Act 2019 on Sunday.

The development took place after the Local Government Ordinance expired on June 8, 2021 and the former PTI government could not bring the law. “Upon restoration of the Punjab Local Government Act, 2019, and consequent to dissolution of the local ordinance, 2021 upon its expiry on 08-06-2022 and in exercise of the powers conferred upon him under Section 121 read with Sr. No 48 of the Sixteen schedule of PLGA, 2019, the chief minister of the Punjab is pleased to appoint the following officers as administrators of the local governments mentioned against each effect from 9.06.2022,” read the notification.

According to the notification, Lahore commissioner is now administrator of Metropolitan Corporation Lahore while commissioners of respective divisions are now the administrators of all municipal corporations at divisional headquarters. The deputy commissioners of all districts will look after the administrative control of all district councils and the additional deputy commissioners (Revenue) of all the districts will be performing duties as administrators at all municipal committees housed at the district headquarters. The assistant commissioner of the respective tehsils will look after the affairs of the municipal committees other than those housed at the district headquarters.

The provincial government also appointed the assistant directors, LG&CD of department respective tehsil as administrators of all union councils. “Every aforesaid administrator shall perform all the duties and exercise all the powers of the respective mayor and deputy mayors, or as the case may be, the chairman or the vice-chairman, and the house till constitution and assumption of office by the elected local governments,” it further said.

The legal experts have termed it “negligence of the incumbent provincial government” saying that it should hold local bodies elections instead of appointing ‘baboos’ as administrators. They say that the government could easily control the administrations through the ‘baboos’ to get the results of their own choice and could use funds for the political objectives.

“This is an important development on the part of the incumbent Hamza government,” said Advocate Azhar Siddique. He said the government now would try to achieve the targets, especially the political ones, through the officers at the division and district levels. He said this old law could not be enforced by the government without approval of the provincial assembly. Azhar said that the ECP should take notice of this notification and restore the Local Government Act, 2019.

Advocate Musthaq Mohl said that the government cannot appoint officers as administrators even under the Local Government Act, 2019. He believes that there was a complete mechanism in the said law regarding the local government elections. “The present Hamza government should announce local government elections and the law is quite clear on it,” said Mohl, adding that the appointment of officers as administrators for the local governments is negligence and incompetence of the provincial government. He said that the LG Act 2019 became effective as soon as the ordinance given by the PTI government expired, so there was no other choice except to announce and hold elections.

Fida Hussnain is a correspondent covering judiciary, politics, business and health issues. He is also a feature writer and researcher with major work on freedom of press in Pakistan. He tweets @fidahassanain and can be reached at fidahassanain@gmail.com.