Kal Point, The Nation
Published Date: Aug 2, 2013
Experts call for citizens’ representative LG system
Calling local governance a missing tier of democracy in Pakistan,
parliamentarians and experts of a conference on "Local Governments
Legislation and Citizens Concerns" have called for introducing local
government system that is ‘democratically representative’ and ensure
meaningful participation of citizens.
National NGOs on Thursday organized a national conference on "Local
Governments Legislation and Citizens Concerns" under AWAZ Voice and
Accountability Programme ostensibly to ensure democratic processes and
improving the state’s accountability to citizens through third tier of
the governance i.e. local government. The conference seeks to raise
public concerns about the gaps in draft local bodies bills presented in
provincial assemblies and to make them more democratic, representative
Parliamentarians, civil society activists, political workers and
also people from different walks of life participated in the conference.
Speaking at the occasion, Daniyal Aziz, MNA PML-N, and former
Chairman, National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB), said that separation of
judiciary from executive at local level is a constitutional requirement
for rule of law adding that local governance is the lynchpin of
democratic local government verses colonial system.
Talking of bureaucratic involvement in the current local bodies
legislation, he expressed that executive officers must not think they
will regain judicial authority by destroying the sacrifices of the
lawyer’s movement. "Article 140 A of constitution ensures that powers
once devolved cannot be reversed, " he went on to add.
Dr. Farooq Sattar, Deputy Convener and Parliamentary Leader, MQM
said that in modern times of today, local government is not only for
municipal or civic services but to become the engine of economic growth.
He also said that the local government could play an effective role in
countering terrorism with the help of police and neighborhood.
Dr. Shahzad Waseem, Advisor to Chairman PTI and former State Minister
for Interior, briefed about the draft local government bill prepared by
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. He informed that KP bill has radical transformation
as the power routes from bottom to top in new local bodies bill. He
added that village councils are the basic building block of system that
are empowered politically, administratively and financially. He also
shared a new dimension of ‘Nano Blocks’, which would be established in
Dr Waseem said that women, minorities and peasants are given
increased representation in the bill. He also 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.
While highlighting the importance of local governance in the light
of people’s access to justice, resources and their right to information
Naseer Memon, Executive Director SPO said democracy is incomplete
without tier of local governance. He demanded that there must be
constitutional guarantee for local governance system to continue without
any break, which unfortunately was the case in last few years. He also
called upon clear demarcation of roles, function and powers not only
between elected representatives and bureaucracy but also between
provinces and different tiers of local governments.
Naeem Mirza, Chief Operating Officer, Aurat Foundation, presented
the critique on the Punjab Local Government Act. He said that 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 and union council with village
council/peri urban settlement.
Tahira Abdullah, Human Rights Activists, said local government is
not the third tier of the government but the first tier of the
government. She said that local government would help to get rid of
feudal and tribal system. She also said that local government must work
to eliminate illegal jirgas and punchayats.
Rehana Hashmi, Executive Director Sisters Trust, gave a brief
account of the struggle of women councilors in the precious local
government system. She also highlighted the pressure and problems faced
by women councilors.
Chairing the proceedings, Khawar Mumtaz, Chairperson, National
Commission on Status of Women presented the official position of the
NCSW which is in keeping with its mandate and is based on Constitutional
provisions and the experience of women’s representation in local
government especially from 2001-2009.
Earlier, Feroza Zahra from Aurat Foundation presented a citizens
charter of demand suggesting minimum 33 percent representation for
women, 10 percent for peasants and 5 percent for minorities at all tiers
of local government, filled through party based and constituency based
direct election in joint electorate. She demanded that union council to
be comprised of at least 20 members to ensure meaningful participation
of citizens, along with constitutional protection, fiscal and
administrative autonomy and an end to rural-urban divide.