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Local govt act changes viewed with suspicion

Local government representatives have expressed serious reservations over newly-approved amendments to the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) Local Government Act of 2013 that authorised the provincial government to spend certain amount of the district Annual Development Programme (ADP) funds.

They feared that the provincial government would use it as a tool for political victimisation.

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The K-P government has passed the act, amending Article-53(A), providing the provincial government to a certain portion of the 30 per cent of funds allocated for local bodies.

Mardan Nazim Himayatullah Mayar of the Awami National Party (ANP) said the provincial government was yet to release last quarter funds for the local bodies. Amendments in the act, he said, clearly indicated that it would be used for ‘political victimisation’.

He said that the government had so far released over Rs21 billion to three tiers of the local govewrnment and the funds would be diverted to areas where Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) was dominant, using the funds for political campaigning for the upcoming general elections.

The amendments, Mayar said, violated the spirit of Article 140 of the Constitution which allowed financial autonomy to the local governments, adding that the amendments also violated certain portions of the act too.

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A senior official of the local government department said that after fresh amendment in Section-53(B), the provincial government would approve a formula for distribution of development grants “which may or may not be keeping in view the population of the local body concerned”.

“Before the amendment, the distribution formula for grants was prepared by the provincial finance commission … Now, it will be prepared by the government,” the official said.

Previously, the provincial grants were distributed among the three tiers on the basis of population.

Mayar said that there was no way for the government to justify such an unjust amendment.

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“The PTI government … is weakening the local government system in the province, instead of strengthening it,” Mayar concluded.

Meanwhile, Peshawar Nazim Muhammad Asim of PTI said that they supported the new amendments and he had been taken into confidence before drafting the amendments.

Interestingly, Asim asked this correspondent on phone to give him details about the new amendments.

Another senior official of the local government department said that in the 2002 local government system, there were some discretionary funds which were used by the chief minister and local government minister which vanished in the current LG system.

Ullah, Izhar. Local govt act changes viewed with suspicion. The Express Tribune, April 13, 2017.

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