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EditorialWhy have Sindh LG polls?

Why have Sindh LG polls?

Local governance system is a democratic norm that helps people at the ground level, by making it easier for their basic problems – health, educational or infrastructural, among other things – to be heard and by bringing about changes for the betterment of localities. But the Sindh government, which has been delaying conducting LG polls in the province, on Friday passed a bill to completely make them defunct. During the recently held Sindh Assembly session, the ruling PPP passed the Sindh Local Government Amendment Bill 2021, under which several powers of the elected representatives at the grassroots level have been taken back.

New laws under the bill are quite concerning. For one, it abolishes district councils and replaces them with town municipal corporations with each corporation having a population of five million each. Municipal towns, on the other hand, will have a population of 125,000 people. The tenure of these local bodies has been fixed at four years. What is more concerning is the fact that most of their powers have been transferred to the provincial government, including the work related to health and education. From departments of primary healthcare to birth and death registration certificates, all have been withdrawn from local bodies to the ruling PPP. For the metropolitan city, the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) is no or less made dysfunctional with major chunk of its powers and authority over institutions, such as, Karachi Medical and Dental College and Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, transferred to the Sindh government. What use is then of having LG polls and setting up a powerless municipal corporation at all?

The opposition leader Haleem Adil Sheikh is right to call the passage of this bill a violation of Article 140-A of the Constitution, which demands that the provinces create local governments in their jurisdictions. Upholding this rule, the Supreme Court just last month had ordered the Punjab government to restore local institutions in the province. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa too is all set to hold LG polls in phases next month. The ruling PPP first delayed the process by harping on the federal government’s ‘inaccuracy’ of the controversial 2017 Census results and has now passed this draconian law.

We have all seen the incompetence of the ruling party to govern the province effectively with Karachi still facing water, sewerage issues, among other things. The new bill will only further deprive the people of the province from the provision of basic amenities. The PPP must reconsider its decision and allow for the devolution of powers to the grassroots level.

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