Islamabad: The government of Punjab has approved amendments to Punjab Local Government Act allowing local bodies’ elections to be held through political party or electoral panel and allowing religious minorities to vote for reserved as well as general seats.

This was decided during a meeting of the provincial Cabinet with Chief Minister Usman Buzdar in chair on Tuesday.

The new local government amendment allows returning officers to announce the results and in case of any complaint, election tribunal will decide the matter under the election act.

Following approval by the provincial assembly, elections of neighbourhood and village councils will be held on a non-party basis, while citizens can elect the mayor of their districts through direct voting under this amendment to Local Government Act 2019.

The meeting also accorded approval to amendments to 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.

Besides some 455 local governments would be constituted in the entire province, says the provincial government’s handout after the meeting of the cabinet.

The meeting of the provincial cabinet has also approved revision of Punjab Municipal Services Programme and asked the local governments to complete roads repair and maintenance within the given time-frame.

The Cabinet also approved heritage and urban regeneration programme for the promotion of tourism in Lahore Fort and its buffer zone.

Khalwat Khana or the royal privacy and other areas of the fort would be restored according to this new programme.

It was also decided in the meeting that the hanging electricity wires would be removed along with the restoration of historically-important places around the fort and a museum would be established in the Lahore Fort with a soft loan of $25.8 million (Dh94.76 million), which would be borrowed from the French Development Agency.

While talking to media after the Cabinet meeting on voting rights for non-Muslims, Ijaz Alam, the Punjab Minister for Human Rights and Minorities’ Affairs, welcomed the decision and said the PTI government had won over the minorities by giving them the right of double voting and the Punjab government has now fulfilled their long-standing demand.

He said the PTI government is the custodian of minorities’ rights, adding that historic steps have been taken in Punjab to protect the rights of minorities and every decision is being made in consultation with the Cabinet.