Pakistan News

Govt bars local bodies from regaining charge

Govt bars local bodies from regaining charge

LAHORE: The government on Tuesday stopped the mayor-led local bodies’ representatives from taking charge of their offices and holding a session at the Town Hall after locking the offices and the district assembly hall.

However, the representatives held the assembly session in the Town Hall lawn and called the government’s move unconstitutional, unlawful and contempt of the Supreme Court’s (SC) orders. Some of the representatives, after the session, also tried to break the locks of the offices, including the district assembly, but police foiled their bid.

“Since all local body institutions have been restored by the Supreme Court, we, under the law, have a legitimate right to resume working that was earlier suspended by the government through inception of the new local government ordinance in 2019. But the government is not implementing the court order and is trying hard to keep us away from entering our offices. It is an unlawful act of the government since March 25, the day the SC ordered restoration of the LG institutions,” Lahore Mayor retired Col Mubashir Javaid said while talking to Dawn after attending the assembly session convened by Deputy Mayor Nazir Ahmad Khan Swati.

Mayor calls move illegal, warns of contempt case; CS says govt yet to receive detailed court judgement

The representatives also condemned the government for not implementing the court orders and demanded the chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) take notice of the situation. They also documented the proceedings of the meeting and dispatched it to the chief justices of the Supreme and high courts, the chief secretary (CS) and local government secretary.

“The SC’s larger bench headed by the Honourable Chief Justice of Pakistan had accepted our writ petition No 48/2019 on March 25, termed Section 3 of the LG Act-2019 contradictory to the constitution and restored the LB institutions on the position as they were before inception of the new act. The court also ordered that the LB institutions will complete their term under the law and the constitution,” said Mr Swati.

He said after restoration of the institutions, the elected representatives of Lahore had planned to hold their first meeting and informed the personal staff officer (PSO) of the Lahore Metropolitan Corporation with a request to make necessary arrangements.

But the PSO did not follow the orders and instead locked the main doors of the Town Hall. But the members instead of breaking the locks decided to hold the session in the lawn peacefully under Covid-19 protocols. The participants of the meeting were informed about the court proceedings and order in the case.

The house, Swati said, also passed various resolutions, including one paying tribute to the CJP for restoring the LB institutions. “The house demanded the Punjab government immediately implement the court orders by issuing a notification to abolish charge of the institutions. The house also termed all orders, directions, works etc with effect from March 26 related to institutions being done by the officers,” he explained. “We also request the SC to take notice of the situation.”

According to Mayor Javaid, during the meeting they made it loud and clear that they had been restored by the apex court. “We didn’t try to break the locks forcibly, as some of our assembly members moved towards the main door after the session. But they returned after they found the door locked and a police team requested them not to enter,” he added.

“The government better implement the court orders, failing which we will have no option but to move the relevant legal forum for filing contempt petitions against the government,” he warned.

When contacted, CS Jawad Rafique Malik said the government would implement the SC verdict once it received the detailed judgement.

“We have no issue with giving charge to the elected representatives. But the problem is that we have yet to receive the detailed court judgement. As soon as we receive it, we will hand over the charge to them in line with the judgement,” he maintained.

The CS said since there was no provision for appeal, the government could only file a review petition. “But that too is possible after receiving the detailed judgement,” he added.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2021

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