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What happened to the Islamabad Metropolitan Corporation?

What happened to the Islamabad Metropolitan Corporation?

ISLAMABAD: Even as the ascension of Sadiq Khan, the new London mayor of Pakistani-descent, is celebrated by his compatriots, there seems to be little worry that their own local governments, which were elected amid much pomp and circumstance last year, have not even started working yet.

The federal capital’s own mayor, Sheikh Anser Aziz, blames the bureaucracy for leaving local governments in limbo.

His mistrust is not completely misplaced: the federal government has failed to transfer assets and responsibilities from the Capital Development Authority (CDA) and Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) admin to the newly-formed Islamabad Metropolitan Corporation.

Since his victory in February this year, the first-ever mayor of Islamabad appears to have been walking a tight rope. Like him, other local government representatives who won elections last November are still clueless about the roles and functions of their yet-to-be-allotted offices.

“It is ironic that this delay in the distribution of assets and departments between the metropolitan corporation and the CDA/ICT has increased anxiety among voters, who have begun to lose faith in the local governments,” says Zeeshan Naqvi, the capital’s deputy mayor.

Due to these delays, not even a single meeting of the Islamabad Metropolitan Corporation has been held so far, a good six months after elections were held at the union council-level, and at least four months since the mayor and three deputy mayors were elected on February 15.

This is a blatant contravention of the Islamabad Capital Territory Local Government Act 2015, which stipulates that the first meeting of the metropolitan corporation shall be held no later than 30 days from the day when its members are notified.

The first meeting, then, should have been held in March, since UC members were notified in January and the mayor and deputy mayors were notified in February.

However, sources said that the irregularity in the timeframe enjoyed constitutional cover under Article 254, which states that a failure to comply with timeframe requirements did not render an action invalid.

“While not having a meeting of the metropolitan corporation violates the spirit of the local government law, technically speaking, it is covered by the constitutional provision,” an official told Dawn.

UC-40 Chairman Ali Awan, who hails from the PTI, blamed the ruling PML-N, saying it did not want to part with its powers.

“The PML-N does not want to give up its powers to local representatives; first they did their best to avoid having local government elections, but thanks to the Supreme Court, they were finally compelled to do so. Now, after the formation of the metropolitan corporation, they are reluctant to share their powers,” he said.

Powerless local representatives, he maintained, could do nothing to resolve the problems of their community.

Another local representative, asking not to be named, said that while people were busy hailing Sadiq Khan’s victory in London, “perhaps don’t know that local representatives in Islamabad have been sitting idle for the last six months.”

Mayor Anser Aziz, however, insists that the hurdles are all bureaucratic.

“We are supposed to provide civic services to all citizens of Islamabad, including those living in developed sectors. But how can we do that without having the right to collect taxes?” He also called on other departments – such as CDA’s Estate Management sections, which deal with residential and commercial properties – to be transferred to the metropolitan corporation.

When asked about CDA’s proposal to convert its Building Control section into an independent agency, the mayor said that building control was a core function which should be fully devolved to the local government. “We will take control of the Building Control section, as provided for in the act,” he said.

“Compared to CDA, the ICT admin doesn’t want to hand over any core departments to us,” he said, but hastened to add that this issue may soon be resolved. .

While no CDA officer or spokesperson would speak on the issue of transfer of assets to the metropolitan corporation, certain officials told Dawn on condition of anonymity that the authority was already working on a plan to turn the Building Control section into an independent body that will remain with the CDA.

CADD Minister Dr Tariq Fazal Chaudhry said that details of the assets and responsibilities, which are to be transferred to the metropolitan corporation, are mentioned in the local government act and there could be no deviation from the law.

He also claimed that CDA had provided all necessary data to a ‘transition committee’, which was headed by an interior ministry official, and would soon finalise its recommendations.

Published in Dawn, May 10th, 2016

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