ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Wednesday issued notices to the Sindh government, Attorney General for Pakistan (AGP) and Advocate General Sindh over a petition filed by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) against Sindh Local Government Act.
A three-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed and comprised Justice Faisal Arab and Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan, heard the constitutional petition seeking directions for the Sindh government to devolve powers to the local government institutions.
The court earlier, set aside objections of the Registrar’s Office over the petition filed by PTI.
During the course of proceedings, Barrister Salahuddin counsel for Muttahida Qoumi Movement (MQM) said the real purpose of the petition was to empower the local government system.
The chief justice said Article 140 details had been described in Imran Tiwana case.
The counsel said local bodies were not accountable to the federation and the provinces under Article 140A.
He said the manifesto of all political parties mentioned devolution of power to lower levels but these powers were never devolved.
Justice Ijazul Ahsan asked was the local government of Karachi generated its own funds?
The MQM counsel replied that District Tax had been abolished in the city and provincial Finance Commission issued funds to local governments. He said the MQM raised its voice against the legislation as it was in minority and was not heard over the matter.
The chief justice said the entire game was to keep powers in one’s own hand.
He asked what was guarantee that the local governments would work properly if being delegated powers.
He observed that every system made for Karachi did not give good results so far.
Justice Ijaz Ul Ahsan said the devolution of powers would also bring accountability. While they were in government, they did not like to share powers but when they were not in government, they talked about devolution of powers, he added.
The chief justice said the presence of local government was not someone’s choice but it was compulsory. He asked when the people were drowning, houses were collapsing, where was the city government at that time.
He asked there were twenty thousand KMC employees where they were and why they didn’t seen at that time. It meant that there were ghost employees and billions of rupees were being spent on the salaries, he added. He said, “We witnessed the time when work started at 3 a.m. and the roads were washed away.”
The MQM counsel said clause 74 and 75 of the Sindh Local Government Act contravene the Constitution and under clause 74 the provincial government could take back any powers from local governments.
He said there must be a difference in the powers of the provincial and local governments.
The chief justice said transferring local government powers to the provincial or federal government was against Article 140.
Later, the court asked the counsels to submit their arguments in writing and adjourned the hearing for two weeks.