The Express Tribune
Published Date: Aug 3, 2013
Grass-roots governance: ‘Non-Muslims, women, peasants should have greater say’
The draft legislation on the new local government systems in
Punjab and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa reveals serious gaps and lacunas which
need to be revisited, revised and improved in the larger interests of
This was the crux of a national consultation on Local Governments’
Legislation and Citizens Concern under the Aawaz Utha Local Government
Campaign at Islamabad Hotel on Thursday evening. Representatives of
civil society organisations and human rights activists voiced concern
over some sections of the draft laws, particularly on issues of
representation of women, non-Muslims, citizens’ participation and
autonomy of the local governments. The participants uniformly demanded
women to have a minimum of 33 per cent proportion of representation at
all tiers, peasants to have 10 per cent and non-Muslims 5 per cent
proportion of representation at all tiers. Furthermore, they asked that
all members, at all tiers, are elected through party and
constituency-based, direct elections, that Union Council consist of a
minimum of 20 members, including chair and vice-chair and that there is
no rural-urban divide.
The participating organisations included Aurat Foundation, South Asia
Partnership Pakistan, Strengthening Participatory Organisation (SPO),
Sungi Development Foundation and Sustainable Development Policy
Aurat Foundation Chief Operating Officer Naeem Mirza pointed out that
the number of union councils in one tehsil had been cut down from 21 to
National Commission on Status of Women Chairperson Khawar Mumtaz
presided over the session. She summarised key concerns, asking for
remedial measures on priority basis.
Rights activist Tahira Abdullah condemned some sections of the draft,
saying that women should be given general seats instead of reserved
seats, which is their fundamental right. She demanded adequate
representation for women, peasants and non-Muslims. She demanded
depoliticising of the police and an end to feudal and tribal systems
prevalent in the provinces.
Rehana Hashmi, a feminist rights activist, underscored the importance
of village councillors in dealing with natural and man-made disasters.
Touching upon the issue of terrorism, she said we are fighting a
mini-war in third-world countries. She asked for women’s representation,
dubbing it their lawful right.
Shahzad Waseem, adviser to PTI chairperson, urged that the basic
building block of democracy should be villages. He added that the
capital territory fell into the grey area of towns which was not counted
under urban or rural governance. He underscored the importance of
development funds in villages. With reference to PTI, he said women’s
empowerment is the basic pillar of their political system. He recalled
the party’s efforts to reach at the grass-roots levels during the recent
PML-N MNA Daniyal Aziz hinted at contradictions in the local governance system.