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The News

Published Date: Aug 4, 2013

Local governance is missing tier of democracy

In a
conference organised to highlight gaps in draft local bodies bills
presented in provincial assemblies, Parliamentarians, human rights
activists and experts demanded ‘democratically representative’ system
which ensures meaningful participation of citizen.

Speaking
at a national conference on ‘Local Governments Legislation and Citizens
Concerns’, they said local governance is the missing tier of democracy
in Pakistan and true democracy can only be achieved after a strong local
government system is established.

The event was organised
by leading civil society organisations working under AAWAZ Voice and
Accountability Programme that seeks to ensure inclusive democratic
processes and improves the state’s accountability to citizens. 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. Eminent human rights activist Tahira Abdullah said that
local bodies are actually the first tier of democracy. She demanded 50
per cent representation of women in local bodies and spoke against the
re-establishment of ‘Masalihati Anjumans’ terming them a modern form of
‘Jirgas’. She demanded that police department should be brought under
control of only the local government.

National
Reconstruction Bureau (NRB) former chairman and PML-N MNA Daniyal Aziz
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 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.

Advisor to PTI chairman and former state
minister for Interior Dr. Shahzad Waseem, briefed about 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 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 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 informed that village
council would be made financially autonomous through allocation of
development funds and attracting investments from overseas Pakistanis by
adopt a village scheme.

Deputy Convener and Parliamentary
Leader, MQM Dr. Farooq Sattar 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
can play an effective role in countering terrorism with the help of
police and neighbourhood.

National Commission on Status of
Women (NCSW) Chairperson Khawar Mumtaz, while chairing the proceedings,
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. Two Constitutional provisions, Article 32 and Article 140 A
are important. Article 32 states that: Earlier, Naseer Memon, Chair
AAWAZ Steering Committee, and Executive Director SPO, welcomed the
participants and gave 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.