Lack of elected bodies in Cantt irks residents

After the dissolution of the elected board in the two cantonments of Rawalpindi, residents of these areas are facing problems getting necessary documents cleared apart from resolution of other civic and municipal problems.

Separately, a court has observed that either the government should withdraw the notification to dissolve these boards or announce dates for fresh elections of new bodies.

Residents of the Rawalpindi and Chaklala cantonment boards said that they usually visited the secretariat of the elected vice president of the cantonment boards for the resolution of their issues.

However, the government recently issued a notification dissolving these elected local bodies. They were instead replaced by three-member boards, comprising at least one civilian, for each cantonment board. However, the government failed to create these oversight boards.

As a result, people visiting the vice president's secretariat cannot find anyone who would attest documents such as birth certificates and residency documents apart from resolving cantonment related issues. They are forced to approach the cantonment’s administration.

Disgruntled locals demanded that the previous administration should be restored so that their issues can be resolved.

Challenging the Formation of Mini-Boards

Elected members of the Chaklala Cantonment Board (CCB) have already filed a writ petition in the Lahore High Court (LHC) Rawalpindi bench challenging the formation of mini-boards in the cantonment areas after the elected members’ tenure expired. The petition was filed on Oct 2.

Justice Shahid Jamil has issued notices to Military Lands and Cantonments to submit a reply within 14 days on the formation of the boards.

When contacted, former CCB vice president Raja Irfan Imtiaz said they were ready to challenge the cabinet’s decision in the LHC and would contact the court about the dissolution of the board.

He said they are demanding new local government elections instead of mini-boards. The 2015 local government elections were held after 17 years, he said, and elected boards need to continue.

Cantonment boards yet to prepare annual budgets

The Rawalpindi and Chaklala cantonment boards have failed to prepare their annual budgets for 2020-21 even two months after the start of the new fiscal year.

Moreover, both the cantonments did not hold any board meeting to approve building maps and administrative issues in the last four months.

A senior official of the RCB told Dawn that a board meeting could not be held due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and the civic body failed to approve its annual budget which used to be done in June and July.

He said under the cantonment act 1924, the civic body prepared budget proposals for tax collection, water charges and fees on other services as well as for the development works and present them in the board meeting, comprising public representatives and nominees of the station commander who is the president of the cantonment board.
When contacted, CCB Vice President Raja Irfan Imtiaz said the board meeting would be held soon. He said the meeting could not be convened due to the coronavirus outbreak. But, he added, things have improved and all problems of the residents would be resolved.

RCB spokesman Qaiser Mehmood said the board meeting would be called in a week or two. He said due to the coronavirus, it was not possible to hold the board meeting as some officials of the civic body had also contracted the virus.

CCB announces amnesty scheme

The Chaklala Cantonment Board announced an amnesty plan for irregular and illegal structures built within the remit of the council. The administrator CCB Wasim Shahid to confirm the adoption of a new policy throughout the cantonment under which all those structures built without a pre-approved construction plan will be able to regularize their structures by paying a tax. Additionally, Shahid said the CCB decided to register the surveys draftsmen and cartographers. Once this process is complete, only authorized mapmakers construction plans will be able to submit construction plans for approval. The head of the CCB said that under the amnesty regime, those who get approval of their construction plans will only have to page the registration fees and will not face fines. He hoped that the amnesty plan would not only regulate the existing illegal structures that have sprung up in the cantonment, but also allow them to recover substantial income as well as put an end to future illegal construction.

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