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Published Date: Aug 1, 2013

SDPI Press Release (August 1, 2013)

Calling local governance a missing tier of democracy in
Pakistan,  Parliamentarians and experts
have called for introducing local government system that is ‘democratically representative’
and ensure meaningful participation of citizen.

They were discussing at a national conference on “Local
Governments Legislation and Citizens Concerns” here on Thursday. The conference
seek to raise public concerns about the gaps in draft local bodies bills
presented in provincial assemblies and to make them more democratic,
representative and accountable.

The event was organized by leading civil society organizations
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.

Speaking at the occasion, Daniyal Aziz, MNA PMLN, 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
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. Shahzad Waseem, Advisor to Chairman PTI
and Former State Minister for Interior 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 financialy autonomous through allocation of
development funds and attracting investments from overseas pakistanies by adopt
a village schme.

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 can
play an effective role in countering terrorism with the help of police and
neighbourhood.

Chairing
the proceedings, Khawar Mumtaz, Chairperson, National Commission on Status of
Women (NCSW) 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: “The State shall encourage local government institutions composed
of elected representatives of the areas concerned and in such institutions
special representation will be given to peasants, workers, and women.  Article 140-A prescribes that: “Each province
shall, by law, establish a local government system and devolve political,
administrative and financial responsibility and authority to the elected
representatives of the local governments.”
She also said the local government must be party based.

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.
He also said that
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.

Mr
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 divde. 
There should be no rural-urban
divide in the application of local governments and union council with village
council/peri urban settlement.  He also said that 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.

Ms
Naghma Imdad, from AAWAZ Programme 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 province
i.e. Punjab and NWFP, and in total in 45 districts of both the province.  He also said that
there should be a minimum of 33%
proportion of representation for women,10% for peasants/ labour and 5% for
non-Muslims (with gender balance) through reservation of seats in all three
tiers of local governments to be filled through party-based and
constituency-based direct elections in a joint electorate system.

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.  She said that women must be
elected through direct elections modality, whether for reserved or general
seats.  Any distric, tehsil, union
council where political parties agree to ban and prevent women from contesting
electing or voting must declare election null and void.   She also said that all development funds to parliamentarians
shall be ceased right now, as the development activities of health,
construction of roads, setting of schools are the responsibility of the local
government.  She also said that the
police department shall be brought under control of only the local government.

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.

Dr
Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Executive Director, SDPI presented concluding remarks and
vote of thanks. Ms 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.
Sajid Mansoor Qaisrani,
Executive Director SUNGI Development Foundation, also gave historic perspective
of the struggle for local government’s pro-people role.  .