The Local Government Ordinance specifies two sets of functions to be performed by local governments: compulsory and optional functions. In general the sets of functions for local governments in different provinces are more or less the same. There is further differentiation between the functions of a regulatory nature and those that relate to the provision of services. For the three larger provinces, a common list for all urban councils containing compulsory and optional functions exists. Thus, town committees, municipal committees, municipal corporations and metropolitan corporations (with the exception of Karachi) are supposed to perform the same functions. The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation has been given additional functions. Due to the lower extent of urbanization in Baluchistan a smaller list of functions exists for town committees.

Local governments already have a very large number of functions which they are expected to perform. It is unlikely that extending their statutory duties would have a particularly significant and positive effect on their performance. Thus legal provisions are not a real handicap. It is likely that financial and technical and possibly bureaucratic constraints, may be the cause for the poor performance of most municipal governments. Like their urban counterpart, a very long list of functions for the two-tiered rural local government exists as well. Union Councilors are expected to perform civil, welfare and development functions. The civil functions include the provision and maintenance of public ways, sanitation, conservancy, the slaughter of animals, maintenance of wells, water pumps and tanks. If calamities strike, the Union Councils are expected to undertake relief measures and other measures to promote welfare and health. The development functions of the council include measures to increase food production, industry and promote community development.

District Councils have optional and compulsory functions. Compulsory functions include the provision and maintenance of roads, bridges, public buildings, water supply, maintenance and management of hospitals, maintenance and construction of school buildings etc. Many of the optional functions of District Councils are similar to those of town committees. Despite the large number of legislative functions of local councils and their often extensive organization and management structures, very few functions are actually carried out by local councils.

In urban areas, essentially three basic (compulsory) services are carried out - garbage disposal, maintenance of roads and street lighting. In larger cities, local government looks after preventive health care, which is beyond the scope of smaller urban councils. Most urban local councils are involved in the maintenance of water and sanitation services. Essentially, urban local councils have restricted their role to some of the compulsory functions which they are expected to perform. In smaller cities, even these compulsory functions have been unfulfilled by the local council because they either do not have the funds or know how to undertake the compulsory functions. In rural areas, the actual role of Union Councils and District Councils is even more limited than the role played by smaller urban councils. Some District Councils are involved in the development and maintenance of link roads and drainage. Union Councils have virtually no role in development or maintenance of services. The larger District Councils have a partial involvement in the provision of preventive and curative health care and in animal husbandry.

Compulsory functions of urban councils

Public health (sanitation, insanitary buildings and lands, removal, collection and disposal of refuse, latrines and urinals, birth and death and infectious diseases):

- A Committee shall be responsible for the sanitation of the Municipality and may, by notice, require the owner or occupier of any building or land which is in an insanitary or unwholesome state to clean or otherwise put it in a proper state, make arrangements to the satisfaction of the Committee for its proper sanitation, lime-wash the building and make such essential repairs as may be specified in the notice;

- A Committee shall make adequate arrangements for the removal of refuse from all public roads and streets, public latrines, urinals, drains and all buildings and land vested in the Committee and for the collection and proper disposal of such refuse;

- A Committee shall cause public dust-bins or other suitable receptacles to be provided at suitable places and in proper and convenient situation in streets or other public places and require that all refuse accumulating in any premises or land shall be deposited by the owner or occupier of such premises;

- A Committee shall provide and maintain in sufficient number and in proper situations, public latrines and urinals for the separate use of each sex and shall cause the same to be kept in proper order and to be properly cleaned;

- A Committee shall register all births and deaths within the limits of the Municipality and information shall be given by such persons or authorities and registered in such manner as the bye-laws may provide; and

- A Committee shall adopt measures to prevent infectious diseases and restrain infection within the Municipality and shall establish and maintain one or more hospitals for reception and treatment of persons suffering from such diseases.

Water supply: wholesome water sufficient for public and private purposes.

Drainage:

- A Committee shall provide an adequate system of public drains in the Municipality and all such drains shall be constructed, maintained, kept, cleared and emptied with due regard to the health and convenience of the public;

- Every owner or occupier of any land or building within the Municipality may, with the previous permission of the Committee and subject to such terms and conditions, including the payment of fees cause his drains to be emptied into public drains; and

- All private drains shall be subject to control, regulation and inspection.

Food and drinks: no private market for the sale of articles of food or drink or animals shall be established or maintained within a Municipality except under a license granted by the Committee and in conformity with conditions of such license.

Animals and cattle: prohibition on picketing and tethering in streets, prohibition against keeping and maintaining cattle, provisions regarding dangerous animals and disposal of carcasses.

Education:

- A Committee shall establish, maintain and manage such educational institutions as may be required by the government and may, with the previous approval of government, maintain such other educational institutions as may be necessary for the promotion of education in the Municipality;

- All educational institutions maintained by the Committee shall be maintained in a state of efficiency and shall conform to prescribed standards;

- A Committee may, with the previous approval of government, give financial aid to private educational institutions within the Municipality; and

- Subject to any law for the time being in force, a Committee shall be responsible for enforcement of compulsory education in the Municipality and it may in this behalf adopt all such measures as may be necessary to ensure that every child of school-going age in the Municipality attends a school recognized by the Committee.

Public safety: fire fighting, civil defense, floods, and trade in dangerous and offensive articles.

Town planning: draw up a Master Plan for the Municipality, Site Development Schemes, and the execution of Site Development Schemes.

Building control: erection and re-erection of buildings, completion of buildings, alteration of buildings, regulation of buildings etc.

Streets: public streets, street lighting/watering, traffic control and public vehicles.

Arboriculture.

Optional functions of urban councils

Public health:

- Subject to the provisions of this ordinance and the rules, a Committee may take such measures for promoting public health, including education in health, as it considers necessary or, as the case may be, government directs;

- A Committee may (a) establish, maintain, manage or contribute towards the maintenance of health centres and maternity centres for the welfare of women, infants and children; and (b) provide for the training of Dais;

- A Committee may establish, maintain and manage, in the prescribed manner such number of hospitals and dispensaries as may be necessary;

- A Committee may take such measures as may be necessary or as may be specified by government for the provision, maintenance and management of First Aid Centres and mobile medical aid units, the provision and encouragement of societies for the provision of medical aid, the promotion of medical education, the payment of grants to institutions for medical relief and the medical inspection of school children; and

- A Committee may prepare and implement schemes for the prevention of pollution of air by the gases, dust or other substances exhausted or emitted by auto-mobiles, engines, factories, brick or lime kilns, crushing machines for grain, stone, salt or other materials and such other sources of air pollution as the bye-laws may provide.

Dhobi Gats, ferries etc.: bathing and washing places, Dhobi Ghat, public water courses, public ferries and public fisheries.

Foods and drinks: bye-laws for articles of food and drink as well as milk supply.

Trees, parks, gardens and forests: open spaces, nuisances pertaining to trees and plantations, tanks and low-lying areas.

Education:

- Construct and maintain buildings to be used as hostels for students;

- Give scholarships to deserving or especially bright students;

- Provide for the training of teachers;

- Promote adult education;

- Provide free schoolbooks to orphans and indigent students or at concessional rates;

- Maintain depots for the sale of schoolbooks and articles of stationery;

- Promote and assist educational societies;

- Undertake an educational survey and enforce educational plans; and

- Provide either free of charge or on payment milk or meals for school children.

Culture: libraries, fairs, shows etc.

Social welfare:

- Establish, manage and maintain welfare homes, asylum orphanages, widow homes and other institutions for the relief of the distressed;

- Provide for the burial and burning of paupers found dead within the Municipality at its own expense;

- Adopt such measures as may be prescribed for the prevention of beggary, prostitution, gambling, taking of injurious drugs and consumption of alcoholic liquor, juvenile delinquency and other social evils; and

- Organize social service volunteers and adopt measures for the promotion of the welfare of backward classes, families of the persons weaving in Armed Forces, women and children.

Functions of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation

Physical planning, town planning and building control;
Trunk sewerage system, sewerage treatment plants and sewerage farms;
Bulk water supply;
Refuse disposal plants;
Abattoirs and cattle colonies;
Special and general hospitals as well as maternity homes with 50 beds or more like Spencer's Eye Hospital, Leprosy Hospital, Epidemic Hospital, New Challi Hospital, Lyari Hospital, Sobhrajh and Ranchore Lane Maternity Homes;
Planning and supervision of vector control;
Planning, development and maintenance of food laboratories;
Air and water pollution control;
Milk supply schemes;
Planning, development and maintenance of metropolitan roads and storm water drains;
Metropolitan transport and traffic engineering;
Land control
Higher and specialized education including teachers training;
Regularization of Katchi Abadis and implementation of the Special Karachi Development Project;
Municipal police;
Control workshops and press;
Zoological gardens, aquaria, metropolitan stadium, safari parks, sports complexes and beaches;
Metropolitan libraries, museums and art galleries;
Preservation of landscape, river training and flood control;
Planning, development and maintenance of fire fighting services;
Control of infectious diseases;
Public ferries;
Articles of food and drink;
Site development schemes;
Civil defense;
Metropolitan burial grounds and burning places;
Forests;
Training of Municipal Servants; and
Any other function assigned by the government