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Women’s seats in local bodies increased to 33pc

By: Azeem Samar

Law passed by PA also restores five percent representation of youth, religious minorities and labourers Karachi The Sindh Assembly unanimously passed into law the Sindh Local Government (2nd Amendment) Bill-2016 on Tuesday, increasing the representation of women on reserved seats in local councils to 33 percent and restoring five percent representation of youth, religious minorities, and labourers/peasants in them.

Parliamentary affairs minister Nisar Ahmed Khuhro moved the bill as the provincial assembly deferred for a day the consideration of two other bills also proposing amendments to the Sindh Local Government Act, 2013.

The bill unanimously adopted by the house envisages the following amendment to clause-b of sub-section (9) of section-18 of the Sindh Local Government Act, 2013, “Reserved seats to the extent of 33 percent for women members, five percent for youth members, and five percent for non-Muslim members and five percent for labourers or peasant members elected in the manner as may be prescribed.”

The clause deals with the constitution and composition of local councils in the province as per the Sindh Local Government Act, 2013.

The statement of objects of the bill read: “To remove the anomaly and discrimination in the quota for women, non-muslim, labourer or peasant members, it is expedient to amend the law.”

The percentage of reserved seats for women in local councils was decreased to 22 percent while reserved seats for youths, minorities, and labourers/peasants too were reduced as opposition political parties, earlier in the year, had moved the court against the amendments to the local government law mainly on the issue of the procedure to be adopted for the election of mayors and deputy mayors.

Later, owing to the judgement of apex court on the issue, the provincial government was again authorised to prescribe on its own the ratio of reserved seats for women, youth, minorities, and labourers/[peasants.

The Sindh government, for the first time, has reserved seats for the representation of youth in local councils by amending the law.

The House deferred the consideration of two bills till the sitting of the house on Wednesday – the Sindh Local Government (3rd Amendment) Bill, 2016 and the Sindh Local Govt (4th Amendment) Bill, 2016.

The consideration was deferred on the request of the opposition.

In the proposed bills, the controversial part that could attract severe criticism from the opposition is a system of monitoring, inspection, and control for local councils by the provincial government covering fiscal issues too.

The Sindh Local Government (3rd Amendment) Bill, 2016 envisages a system of supervision of the local council in these words, “The government shall exercise general supervision and control over the [local] councils directly or through the regional directorates of the local governments to ensure that their activities conform to the purpose and provisions of this (Sindh Local Govt) Act. “

It further reads, “The working of councils shall be inspected at least once in a financial year by the government or through the regional directorates of the local government designated as inspecting officer or inspection team appointed by government as may be prescribed.”

The opposition political parties will surely oppose the amendment on the ground that the proposed system will further curtail the local bodies’ administrative and financial autonomy as envisaged in Article 140-A of the Constitution.

The fourth amendment local govt bill is meant to re-introduce the system of secret balloting (instead of the system of show of hands) for the election of mayors and deputy mayors. The proposed amendments have been prepared by the provincial authorities in the light of recent judgement of the apex court.

Quarterly reports

Earlier, the House formally commenced debate on three quarterly reports of the provincial government on the budget for the financial year 2015-16 and for the lawmakers’ recommendations for the next budget.

Opposition lawmakers, especially those belonging to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, noted that provincial authorities were very slow in release and spending funds for the completing the ongoing and new development schemes, especially in the urban parts of the province.

MQM’s Mehmood Abdul Razzaque said in the nine months of the current financial year till March, 2016, only 11.22 percent of the development budget was spent, showing the sorry state of affairs in carrying out development work.

Heer Ismail Soho of the MQM said of the 590 new development schemes in the present provincial budget, nothing had been released for 263 of them.

She said all funds had been released for schemes where they could be misappropriated.

She said the quarterly financial reports showed that Rs11 billion were spent for the payment of subsidies, grants, and waiver of loans but was no explanation for that.

She said the finance department had opened the floodgates for corruption as funds were released after receiving commission.

Muhammad Hussain Khan of the MQM said there had been unsatisfactory progress on development schemes being carried out with foreign assistance.

He said international donor agencies too had expressed dissatisfaction over the performance of the provincial government.

He said that the last three months of the current financial year would surely witness more undue release of funds and submission of bills for consuming budgetary funds in a dubious manner.

Thar report

Earlier, MQM’s Muhammad Hussain Khan demanded that the report of a commission formed to probe the drought and health emergency in Tharparkar should be presented in the provincial assembly after its contents had been leaked to the media.

MQM’s Khawaja Izhar regretted that the House had learnt about the commission’s findings only through the media.

Finance minister Murad Ali Shah said he could not explain as to how the commission’s report were released to the media, but the findings had been presented to the CM and only he could explain the issue.

The News

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