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Daily Times

Published Date: Aug 2, 2013

Implementation of Local Government Bill urged

At a national conference on "Local Governments Legislation and Citizens
Concerns," parliamentarians and experts called for introducing the local
government system that is democratically representative and ensures
meaningful participation of the citizens.

The conference raised
public concern about the delay in the draft of the local bodies bills
presented in the provincial assemblies. The attendees urged to make the
bodies more democratic, representative and accountable.

Aurat Foundation Chief Strategy and Policy Officer Younas Khalid opened and moderated the conference.

SPO Executive Director Naseer Memon welcomed the participants and explained in detail the objectives of the conference.

He
highlighted the importance of local governance in the light of people’s
access to justice, resources and their right to information.

He also said that democracy is incomplete without local governance.

He
demanded that there must be a constitutional guarantee for the local
governance system to continue without any break, which unfortunately was
the case in the last few years.

He also called for clear
demarcation of roles, function and powers not only between elected
representatives and the bureaucracy but also between provinces and
different tiers of local governments.

Deputy team leader of AAWAZ
programme from DAI Naghma Imdad described the focus of the AAWAZ
programme and its objectives of advocacy and research.

She also
said that currently the programme is being run in two provinces i.e.
Punjab and KP, and in total 45 districts of both the provinces. She
went on to say that there should be a minimum of 33% proportion of
representation for women, 10% for labour and 5% for non-Muslims (with
gender balance) through reservation of seats in all three tiers of local
governments, which should be filled through party-based and
constituency-based direct elections in a joint electorate system.

Aurat Foundation Chief Operating Officer Naeem Mirza 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. He also said that an autonomous local government commission
needs to be established under the chairpersonship of the chief minister
to look after the affairs of the local government.

SUNGI
Development Foundation Executive Director Sajid Mansoor Qaisrani gave a
historic perspective of the struggle for local governments.

MQM
leader Farooq Sattar said that in the modern times of today, local
government is not only for municipal or civic services but is 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.

Human
Rights activist Tahira Abdullah said the local government is not the
third tier of the government but the first tier of the government. She
said that local government would help in getting rid of the feudal and
tribal system.

She also said that the local government must work to eliminate illegal jirgas and punchayats.

She said that women must be elected through direct elections modality, whether for reserved or general seats.

If
any district, tehsil, union council where political parties agree to
ban and prevent women from contesting electing or voting, their
elections must be declared null and void. She also said that all
development funds to the parliamentarians shall be ceased right now,
because the development activities of health, construction of roads,
setting up of schools are the responsibility of the local government.

She went on to say that the police department should be brought under control of the local government.

Sisters
Trust Rehana Hashmi Executive Director gave a brief account of the
struggle of women councillors in the precious local government system.

She also highlighted the pressure and problems faced by women councillors.

Speaking
at the occasion, PMLN MNA and National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB)
Former chairman Daniyal Aziz said that the separation of judiciary from
executive at local level is a constitutional requirement for the rule of
law, adding that local governance is the lynchpin of a democratic local
government verses the colonial system.

Talking of bureaucratic
involvement in current local bodies legislation, he expressed that
executive officers must not think they will regain judicial authority by
destroying the sacrifices of the lawyers’ movement.

"Article 140 A of constitution ensures that powers once devolved cannot be reversed, " he went on to add.

Former
state minister for interior Dr Shahzad Waseem briefed about the local
government draft bill prepared by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

He said that the KP bill has a 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 the system
that are empowered politically, administratively and financially.

He
also shared a new dimension of ‘nano blocks’ that would be established
in urban centres. Dr Waseem said that women, minorities and peasants are
given increased representation in the bill.

He also lamented the dysfunctional local bodies system in Islamabad that is administrated by the CDA.

He
informed that the village councils would be made financially autonomous
through allocation of development funds, and investments from overseas
Pakistanis would be attracted by the ‘adopt a village’ scheme.

Chairing
the proceedings, National Commission on Status of Women (NCSW)
Chairperson Khawar Mumtaz, presented the official position of the NCSW
that 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 to 2009.

She also said that the local government must be party based.

Earlier,
Aurat Foundation’s Feroza Zahra 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.
She demanded that the union council to be comprised of at least 20
members to ensure meaningful participation of citizens.

SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri made the concluding remarks and thanked the participants.