By Riaz Missen, Weekly Pulse, August 19, 2013
Last week, civil society organizations (NGOs and political parties) demanded a uniform local self-government (LG) system across the country as per the spirit of the 18th Amendment.
Sustainable Development Organization (SDPI) hosted seminar in a local hotel of Islamabad to help AWAZ Voice and Accountability Program, an initiative of Aurat Foundation, to present a 12-point Charter of Demand (CoD). AAWAZ consortium partners include Strengthening Participatory Organization (SPO), Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), Aurat Foundation (AF), South Asia Partnership-Pakistan (SAP-Pk) and Sungi Development Foundation.
Commenting on the CoD, Danyal Aziz, the ex-chairman of the National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB) and the PML-N member of National Assembly, said Article 140-A not only made the LG system mandatory for the ‘autonomous provinces’, but also set a condition for further amending the Constitution. “No constitutional reforms in future can be made if they violate the spirit of devolution,” he said, adding the process of devolution is endless.
“The executive magistracy is unconstitutional, for it combines judicial and administrative roles,” Danyal emphatically said, adding that while Pakistan has become a federation after the 2010 constitutional reforms, the administrative structure remains unitary in matter and substance, hence, needs to be restructured despite all odds. Danyal Aziz said no political party is against the devolution of power in Pakistan but doing so is not easy, for tearing down a colonial system of administration is not that an easy job.
Tahira Abdullah pointed out that the CoD must include the LG system as primary rather than a third tier of the government and that not only the provinces, but also the centre should be made bound, through a constitutional arrangement, to introduce the system in the areas under its jurisdiction.
Dr. Farooq Sattar of MQM said the future of Pakistan is tied to its willingness to introduce democracy at the grassroots level and see well off to centralization once and for all. The Deputy Convener and Parliamentary Leader of MQM said local government is not only for municipal or civic services but to become the engine of economic growth besides its known potential check terrorism with the help of police and neighborhood.
Dr. Shahzad Waseem, Advisor to Chairman PTI, informed the audience that the KP bill had radical transformation as the power routes from bottom to top in new local bodies’ bill. He said village councils are the basic building block of system that empowers people politically, administratively and financially. He also shared the concept of ‘Nano Blocks’ which would be established in urban centres giving women, minorities and peasants increased representation.
Waseem lamented the dysfunctional local bodies system in capital territory which is administrated by CDA and ICT marred by further divide between rural and urban where urban Islamabad goes completely un-presented at local level. He said the village council would be made financially autonomous through allocation of development funds and attracting investments from overseas Pakistanis by adopt a village scheme.
Naseer Memon, Executive Director SPO, highlighted the importance of local governance in the light of people’s access to justice, resources and their right to information. He said democracy is incomplete without tier of local governance. “There must be a constitutional guarantee for local governance system to continue without any break, which unfortunately was the case in last few years,” he demanded. Memon urged for clear demarcation of roles, function and powers not only between elected representatives and bureaucracy but also between provinces and local governments.
Mr Naeem Mirza, Chief Operating Officer, Aurat Foundation, presented a critique on the Punjab Local Government Act. He said one bad thing about the Act is that it considers the province in a sharp rural-urban divide. There should be no rural-urban divide in the application of local governments. “An autonomous Local Government Commission needs to be established under the chairpersonship of the Chief Minister or his/her representative/minister to look after local government affairs,” he suggested.
The participants of the seminar were however not emphatic on the point as to what should be done to FATA, the seven agencies where a military operation is underway with the priority to reestablish the writ of the state through political agents. Tahira Abdullah said a new clause should be added to bind the Centre to introduce LGs in the regions under its jurisdiction.
Dr. Abid Suleri, the Executive Director of SDPI, talking to Weekly Pulse said he was in favor of extending LG system to FATA so as to help them decide their fate themselves. He said he hopes that the LG elections would be conducted in the federal capital as per the directions of the Supreme Court.