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Published Date: Jul 29, 2013

SDPI Press Release (July 29, 2013)

Representatives
of civil society organizations on Monday, presented a ‘Citizen’s Charter of
Demand’ asking governments to legislate and hold local bodies elections in
accordance with the constitution of Pakistan.

The Charter of Demand
was presented at a press conference 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.

Press conference was
jointly conducted by Naeem Mirza of Aurat Foundation (AF); Naseer Memon of
Strengthening Participatory Organization (SPO); Sajid Mansoor Qaisrani of Sungi
Development Foundation and Sadia Sharif from Sustainable Development Policy
institute (SDPI) .

Speakers identified
serious gaps in draft laws and urged policy makers to revisit, revise and
improve the draft bills in larger interests of people of Pakistan. They called
upon provincial governments to fulfill their constitutional responsibilities
and ensure enhanced representation of excluded groups in political process.

They said that
proposed bills tabled in provincial assemblies have restricted citizen’s
participation and particularly the draft bill of Punjab is not acceptable in
current form. They were also of the view that basic principle of representation
has been violated by fixing limited number of seats and indirect selection on
reserved seats particularly for women and minorities.

Speakers demanded at
least 33 percent representation for women, 10 percent for peasants/labour and 5
percent for non-Muslims through reservation of seats in all three tiers of
local governments filled through party-based and constituency-based direct
elections in a joint electorate system.

Citing Charter of
Demand, the speakers asked for constitutional protection for LG system from
unlawful interference from center or provinces along with fiscal and
administrative autonomy.  They also suggested to end  rural-urban
divide and underlined the need for establishing Musalihati Anjumans , community
boards and other sub-structures at UC, tehsil and district level through
principles of parity, equality and gender-based participation.

They were of the view
that existing structure of Provincial Finance Commission must be revised on
indicators like poverty, gender gap, geographic backwardness and development
gap with at least 30 percent budget must be allocated for women specific at
district level. Talking of ensuring accountability, the charter of demand
suggested establishing independent mechanisms such as provincial commission on
right to information, district ombudsman and public accounts committees.

Kindly find below the full text of “Charter of Demand for Local
Government Plan 2013”

We recommend that:

1.Local Governments should be considered ‘third tier’ of governance with a
constitutional guarantee and safeguards against any unlawful abrogation or
dissolution or suspension or tempering in their affairs in a manner not
prescribed in the law. All such interferences shall be considered violation of
Constitution and must be dealt with legal penalties for authorities/persons
responsible for any such acts.

2. There should be no rural-urban divide in the application of local governments
and union council with village council/peri urban settlement below it should be
considered the primary tier while tehsil and district council should be upper
tiers of local governments. 

3.The strength of the union council should be not less than 18 members in
addition to seats of mayor/deputy mayor to ensure citizens’ meaningful
participation and inclusion of all excluded groups in the local governments for
effective service delivery, gender equality, dispute resolution and social
harmony. All these seats shall be elected through direct election.

4.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. The same principle must be ensured for all sub-committees,
boards, commissions at all tiers.

5.Local government should be given fiscal autonomy to run their affairs with the
right to collection of taxes, in accordance with provincial context. A balance
of authority should be created whereby elected representatives’ authority is
not encroached upon by bureaucracy and similarly elected representatives should
be answerable to the elected house and should not interfere in executive
functions. Elected councils shall take on precedence over government officials
who shall be accountable and sub-ordinate to them.

6.Musalihati Anjumans, neighborhood councils, citizens’ community boards and
other sub-structures at UC, tehsil and district level must be set-up through
principles of parity, equality and gender-based participation.

7.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. It would be appropriate to have balanced
representation from both treasury and opposition from the provincial assembly,
as well as, adequate representation of women and non-Muslims to make it more
inclusive. This high powered body should have the final authority to take
appropriate decisions regarding any matters pertaining to local governments.

8.Allocation of development funds to the elected Councils and elected
representatives should be made through transparent, fair, rights-based and
needs-based process. Principles of provincial finance and budgeting should
categorically mention indicators like poverty, gender gap, geographic
backwardness and development gap. The existing structure of Provincial Finance
Commission may be reviewed and revised on the aforementioned indicators. A
minimum of 30% of the district government budget should be allocated on women-specific
development plans and schemes.

9.New local government legislation in all provinces should empower and charge the
local governments to develop and execute disaster risk reduction and disaster
management plans under the technical guidance and supervision of Provincial
Disaster Management Authority. District Disaster Management Authority or a
department should be introduced at district level. The department may have
institutional link with PDMA as well as well-defined coordination mechanism
with elected local government and civil society organizations.

10.The
‘Right to Information’ is a key to empower citizens and ensure transparency and
good governance at the local level and it is also enshrined in our
Constitution. Citizens should be given access to information on development
planning, budgeting, expenditure, engendering, meeting minutes and other
matters of governance at the district level and at the lower tiers. An easily
accessible institutional mechanism such as the Provincial Commission on
Information should make it simple and convenient for citizens to get updated
information on any aspect of the performance of the provincial and local
government tiers.

11.The new
Local Government legislation in all provinces should make a provision for
grievance redressal /complaint management mechanism enabling citizens to hold
their elected councils accountable to them and to check discriminatory
practices such as sidelining, threatening or other excesses against women or
non-Muslim members and other council members who do not belong to the local
power structures. District Ombudsperson can be an option with appropriate
powers to make local government departments accountable and efficient.

12.Local
governments should be subject to accountability and transparency under the
constitutional and legal framework of the province. District Public Accounts
Committee should also be introduced to create a check and balance with a council
member of the opposition of repute as its head. Alternative dispute resolution
mechanism should be inserted in the new legislation for facilitating access to
justice and social harmony.

AAWAZ Voice and
Accountability Programme: (Consortium Partners: Strengthening
Participatory Organisation (SPO ), Aurat Foundation (AF) , South Asia
Partnership-Pakistan (SAP-Pk), Sungi Development Foundation, Sustainable
Development Policy Institute (SDPI)