Chief Minister Punjab Sardar Usman Buzdar presided over the 20th meeting of the provincial cabinet at his office here on Tuesday in which approval of amendments in Punjab Local Government Act, 2019 was granted. Under the amendments, taking part in local bodies’ elections will be permitted through political party or electoral panel. Religious minorities will have the right to vote for reserve as well as general seats. Returning Officers will announce the results and in case of any complaint, election tribunal will decide under election act. The meeting gave approval to amendments in Punjab Village Panchayats and Neighbourhood Councils Act, 2019. Delimitation of local areas under Punjab Demarcation of Local Areas Rules, 2019 and establishment of succeeding local governments under Punjab Local Government Act, 2019 were given approval, as well. As many as 455 local governments will be constituted in the whole of the province. The meeting approved revision of Punjab Municipal Services Programme and local governments will complete roads repair and maintenance. The cabinet gave approval to the heritage and urban regeneration programme for the promotion of tourism in Lahore Fort and its buffer zone. The royal privacy (khalwat khana) and other areas of the fort will be restored. The hanging electricity wires will be removed along with the restoration of historically-important places around the fort. A fort museum will be established in the Lahore Fort with a soft loan worth 25.8 million dollars which will be borrowed from the French Development Agency. The meeting decided to declare Lahore and Nakchivan city of Azerbaijan as sister cities and signing of an MOU was also approved in this regard. This would help in promoting economic cooperation, exchange of delegations and launching of joint projects.
The meeting approved the establishment of South Punjab Institute of Science and Technology in DG Khan along with the endorsement of decisions made in 19th provincial cabinet meeting and 16th meeting of cabinet standing committee on finance & development. Provincial Minister for Human Rights and Minorities Affairs Ijaz Alam welcomed the decision of granting voting right to minorities in local bodies’ elections on general seats and added that Chief Minister Usman Buzdar has won the hearts of the religious minorities by giving them the right of double voting and the Punjab government has fulfilled their long-standing demand. Addressing the meeting, the chief minister said that PTI government is the custodian of minorities’ rights adding that historic steps have been taken in Punjab to protect their rights and every decision is being made in consultation with the cabinet. He asked the ministers to burn the midnight oil for public service. He hoped that local bodies system will be helpful in empowerment of the people at the grassroots as it has been designed in accordance with the needs of the time. Provincial ministers, advisors, special assistants, Chief Secretary and others attended the meeting.