KARACHI - The Sindh Assembly passed a new “Sindh Local Government Bill 2013” into law with majority vote amid protest of main opposition party MQM on Monday.
Two opposition parties – PML-N and PML-F – supported the ruling PPP in smooth passage of the bill from provincial legislature, while MQM and PTI opposed it when it was presented by Law Minister Sikandar Mandhro.
The ruling PPP said the new bill was in the best interest of the people of Sindh, under which local government elections would be conducted on party-basis, but MQM announced to challenge it in courts, claiming that it was was against the sprit of Article 140-A of constitution as administrative, fiscal and political authority has not been devolved to the third tier of the governments.
According to the draft of bill, the new law keeps the basic structure of the Sindh Local Government Law-1979 but more powers have been given to the local government. LB polls would be held on party basis; while there will be different administration systems for urban and rural areas. Minister for local bodies will be head of the Local Government Commission.
The draft envisages restoration of five districts in Karachi, led by district mayor, with five municipal corporations in each district. The entire city would be led by a Mayor. There would be District Municipal Corporations in Hyderabad, Sukkur and Larkana, with Town Municipal Committees in small cities. Hyderabad city would be led by a Mayor, and its districts would be led by Chairman District Council.
The session started about two and half hours late, at 11:50am, with Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani in the chair in full attendance of the lawmakers. After taking up the question hour and adjournment motion, Education Minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro requested the chair to allow him to move a motion for immediate introduction and consideration of the Sindh Local Government Bill-2013.
The Speaker put the motion in the house and PPP, PML-N and PML-F lawmakers with majority vote allowed to take up the bill, while MQM lawmakers standing on their seats chanted ‘no-no’ and ‘shame-shame’.
Opposition Leader in Sindh Assembly, Syed Faisal Sabzwari of MQM, on point of order said that copies of the bill were not provided to the lawmakers, so how can they discussed the document before reading it. Rejecting the bill, he said that government had shared the draft with them online but they don’t know what changes have been made in it.
MQM’s Parliamentary Leader Syed Sardar Ahmed pointed that not all the members were provided with the copies of bill and the government distributed few copies after tabling it in the house without statement of aims and objective, which was illegal.
PPP Senior Minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro contradicted the allegations, saying that copies of bill were provided to every member of the house, and he was seconded by his party lawmakers who shouted ‘yes-yes’. The MQM lawmakers opposed the bill during the legislation process but surprisingly they didn’t stage sit-in or boycotted the assembly proceedings.
Taking part in the discussion, Faisal Sabzwari said that the new bill was a copy of 1979 local government system, which upholds the authority of bureaucracy. He said PPP government by introducing the two systems, one for rural and other for urban, has further divided the population of the province, which was unacceptable to them.
He demanded the government revive the ‘Sindh Peoples Local Government Act 2012’, which came with 90pc consensus of the house. He said that government has ignored the views of 47 MPAs of MQM, which constitute 33pc representation of the house, who returned with support of millions voters.
Opposition leader offered the government to conduct the audit of finances of four years of the MQM’s Nazims but it should not give the punishment of the incompetency of some Nazims to the masses of the province.
MQM leader said that his party had suggested the government committee to give administrative, financial and political authority to the local governments.
He demanded that control on police, traffic police, land, Katchi abadies, basis health and education, and other departments as well as property and motor-vehicle taxes must be devolved to the local governments in the new law.
MQM’s opposition leader announced challenging the new law in the courts, besides building opinion against the controversial local government law among the masses.
Syed Hafeezuddin of PTI said his party was neither consulted by the government on new law nor it shared the document with them, so his party opposed immediate consideration of the law. He suggested that government must give them half a week to study the new law as they wanted to get input from the proposed law of KP.
PML-N Parliamentary Leader Irfanullah Marwat from opposition benches extended his party’s support and appreciated the PPP government over consulting with his party on the new law, which according to him was good and in the best interest of the province. Also from opposition, PML-F Parliamentary Leader Imtiaz Ahmed Shaikh also supported the new law.
PPP’s Nisar Khuhro while replying to the points raised by the opposition benches in their speeches admitted that Sindh Local Government Bill 2013 carries the basic structure of 1979 local government system, however, the government has given more powers and representation to the women, laborers and minorities in it. He claimed that political, administrative and financial responsibilities and authority have been devolved to the elected representatives of the local governments in the new law.
After discussion, the House took up the bill for clause by clause consideration. Government benches rejected two amendments proposed by PML-F’s Shaharyar Khan Mahar: to the hold the local government elections on non-party basis and to give powers of the delimitations for Union Councils and districts to the Election Commission of Pakistan before local government elections. However, the house accepted his proposal about detail of delimitation in the law. Later, assembly passed the bill with majority vote.
Later, the government tabled another bill “Sindh Universities (Amendment) Bill 2013” for transferring the powers of appointment of VCs, registrars and other officials in pubic universities from Governor to CM, which irked the MQM lawmakers, who boycotted the proceedings and didn’t come back in the house. Later, the speaker read out the order of the governor and prorogued the house for indefinite period.