On direction of the chief minister, the Punjab Provincial Development Working Party (PPDWP), in a special session ahead of the 2018 General Elections, has approved Rs11.831 billion for the Local Government Development Package (LGDP) on Thursday.
This multi-billion rupee development package is aimed at executing thousands of small uplift schemes in urban and rural union councils as well as municipal committee wards across Punjab before the upcoming polls. These schemes will be identified by local government representatives who were otherwise struggling for powers even after two years of their elections in Punjab.
The government has already nominated deputy commissioners (DCs) as the executing authority of the LGDP schemes. Punjab Finance Department will transfer these funds to DCs who will release payments once District Development Committees (DDCs) will give the go ahead for execution of any development project. Most local government representatives, mostly from ruling party, have already identified much needed development schemes in their areas.
The government has also set a timeline for completion of all these schemes before the 2018 general elections. Development projects, under the LGDP, will start from next month and be completed by April 30, 2018. Estimates indicate that the government has allocated around Rs2.5 million for each union council and a half-million for each ward.
Metropolitan Corporation Lahore (MCL) opposition member Afeef Siddiqui termed the LGDP an attempt at pre-poll rigging. Speaking to The Express Tribune, Siddiqui said Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) does not want to strengthen local governments or democracy in the country. “Earlier, the Punjab government resisted local government elections for seven years. Later, on the Supreme Court’s orders, the rulers decided to hold local government polls, but representatives continued to be embroiled in a battle for powers even two years after being elected.
“Two years have passed since local government elections, but we cannot solve the basic issues of citizens. The provincial government has left no room for local government representatives to solve people’s problems. Now before general elections, all of a sudden, the government has opened the public kitty to local governments,” he said. Siddiqui underlined that the PML-N and the Punjab government, in fact, were planning to rig the 2018 General Elections through its handpicked local government system. Local government representative are being bribed with public money so they could help the ruling party during the interim regime before elections, he alleged.
On the other hand, Punjab Chief Minister’s Advisor Khawaja Ahmad Hassan highlighted that the LGDP is being initiated to uplift underprivileged areas in the province. During the first four years, he said, the Punjab government laid its focus on mega development projects like Lahore Orange Line Metro Train, Sahiwal Coal Power Plant, Bhikki Power Plant and other infrastructure projects. “Now, when the PML-N is nearing the end of its term, its government is focusing on social sector projects.
After being elected in January of 2017, Col (retd) Mubashir Javaid reiterated his determination to develop the provincial capital.
Speaking to the media, he underlined there was no tug of war for power as the new local government representatives were committed to serving people in their respective jurisdictions.
He said they would only be powerful if they were willing to serve the public. “My team, including nine deputy mayors and union council chairmen, has been chosen by the people and reached its position through grass-roots level politics,” he said at the time.
My party has set a new example by transferring powers to local government representatives, proving it does not believe in just verbal change,” he maintained.
Adnan, Imran. Punjab govt allocates over Rs11b to LG development. The Express Tribune, November 24, 2017.