Lahore, 13 May 2014 (PR)
Punjab local government system needs to be reformed for conducting credible local government elections in line with the international standards and recent verdicts by the High Court and the Supreme Court. The demand for reforms was echoed by elected members of Punjab Assembly, representatives of civil society and media at the launch of Punjab Local Elections Framework Assessment in Lahore on Tuesday. The Punjab Local Elections Framework Assessment (LEFA) has been published and launched by Improving Parliamentary Performance in Pakistan (IP3), a European Union funded project.
The LEFA presents an analysis of the electoral provision in the Punjab Local Government Act [PLGA 2013] based on Pakistan’s commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and other international treaties. The document aims to help the Punjab government to bring the provincial electoral framework in line with Pakistan’s international commitments.
Speaking at the event Leader of the Opposition in Punjab Assembly Mian Mahmood ul Rasheed said that the current electoral framework for the local elections in Punjab is not in line with the constitution of Pakistan. “Major reforms are needed to ensure true representation of masses into the third tier of governance as well as meaningful of transfer of power to grassroots”, he said.
Addressing on the occasion Chairman of the Standing Committee on Local Government and Community Development, Chaudhry Abdul Razzaq Dhiloon said that the local government act is open to reform and further consultations with all stakeholders. He appreciated the analysis presented by IP3 and said that the government was willing to work with the project to conduct the reform of electoral components of the law.
Director of Human Rights Commission of Pakistan Hussain Naqi said that the current local government electoral framework is a step backward from past local government elections as it does not ensure people’s right to freely choose their elected representatives at the local level. He endorsed all the recommendations presented in LEFA.
Representing the voices of women, female parliamentarians including Dr. Najma Afzal, Gulnaz Shahzadi and Farah Manzoor demanded the genuine representation of women and asked the political parties to encourage open contest of women on all elected seats. They also demanded to increase the reserved seats of women to at least 33 percent.
Presenting the findings and recommendations under LEFA, the IP3’s Senior Expert Elections Hassan Nasir Mirbahar said that Punjab local government act compromises constitutionally guaranteed independence of Election Commission of Pakistan by giving right to issue rules for conduct of election to the Punjab Government. He further said that law does not guarantee equality of suffrage in delimitation of electoral constituency as there were huge variances in delimitations. Hassan Nasir noted that most glaring gap in the law was that it does not guarantee transparency of results process as there is no requirement for publishing full results of the local government elections and there is no time bar on ECP to announce results. He further said that that law does not adequately define electoral system, for example it is not defined in law that when fresh elections will be held once assemblies expire their term or they are dissolved. With regards to women’s representation he added that as compared to previous local government systems, the law significantly cuts down women’s reserved seats as there are only 15% reserved seats for women at UC level as compared to 33% under Local government Ordinance 2001.
Other speakers of the event included Sardar Waqas Mokal, Engineer Qamar ul Islam Raja, Muhammad Asif Bajwa, Irfan Daultana, Syed Mohsin Abbas, Moulana Muhammad Ilyas Chenoti, Syed Anjum Raza and others.
The launch event was attended by legislators, representatives of civil society organisations, media and other stakeholders, in large numbers.
The Improving Parliamentary Performance in Pakistan (IP3) project is funded by the European Union (EU) and is being delivered by a group of international and local partners led by the British Council. Other partners in the project include Democracy Reporting International (DRI); Westminster Foundation for Democracy; Pakistan Institute of legislative Development and Transparency (PILDAT) and Research Society of International Law, Pakistan (RSIL).
The main objective of IP3 is to strengthen the parliament as an institution and to support both committees and individual parliamentarians in the three main areas of their work: legislation, oversight and representation. The project also aims to build the capacity of parliamentary secretariats so that they are able to provide better support for committee work. IP3 is a non-partisan entity and works with parliamentarians without regard for their political affiliations or whether they are on Treasury or Opposition benches.