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Published Date: Sep 28, 2011

SDPI PRESS RELEASE(28 SEPTEMBER 2011)

Experts, politicians and civil society organizations at a national workshop demanded the immediate election of local government bodies, and vowed for collective action for revival of local government system in Pakistan.

They say that it’s the constitutional responsibility of provinces under article 32 and 140(a), to establish elected local governments and devolve political, financial and administrative responsibilities to local government representatives. They also recommended creating awareness and campaigning to ensure political mobilisation, time bound framework for LG elections, extension of LG system to all cantonments with elected heads and clear demarcation of function with provinces.

This was agreed in a national roundtable consultation on “Elected Local Government: Revival and Reforms” jointly organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI), SANGAT Foundation and the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) here on Wednesday.

Senator Haji Adeel Ahmad said that ANP supports local bodies but oppose local government system of 2001, which violates provincial autonomy.  He said that it’s very unfortunate that political parties were unable to pass Local Government Bills in provinces despite promises made to people in general elections. He informed that LG bill, already tabled in KPK Provincial assembly, would be passed very soon. He suggested further debates on provincial level to pave the way for swift legislation and implementation.

Speaking on the occasion Senator Mir Hasil Khan Bizenjo said that every dictator started off with local government system while mainstream political parties tend to ignore it. While talking of resource generation he said that no district in Balochistan (except Quetta to some extent) is able to generate resource on its own. He demanded that Provincial Finance Commission Award must be implemented immediately. He also lamented that MNA’s and MPA’s are doing works which fall under the functions of local governments.

Nafisa Shah, MNA PPP and Chairperson NCHD said that provinces need to be sensitized for legislation on local government system. She criticized the 2001/05 local government system and said that it is complicated one (have three tiers at local level), is against constitution, overlooked rural urban divide and had violated provincial autonomy. The political parties, she said, supports local bodies as they provide the breeding ground for political parties, and also they have to now decide which form of system they must adopt.

Mr Danyal Aziz, Advisor, Governance Institutes Network International discussed constitutional issues and highlighted the current status of local governments in the provinces. He was of the view that political elite don’t want any competitors in form of local government system, fearing the loss of political patronage and relative political, financial and administrative powers. He said that It’s a false premises that local government system has threatened the provincial autonomy. Local government system, he said, in fact complemented provincial autonomy in form of devolution in 2001. Earlier higher bureaucracy posts were reserved for federal civil servants. He asked what kind of provincial autonomy was that?

Mr Kaisar Bengali, Former Advisor Government of Sindh said that local government system of 2001 was deliberately designed to serve certain purposes causing severe damage to state institutions. He elaborated that It was designed to counter politicians, political parties and provincial autonomy. He also said that the size of devolved unit should have been proportionate with functions. In 2001 Small units were given more function that they can handle which were in direct overlap with provinces. Also, as district is a smaller unit, some provincial function cant be devolved to districts. He proposed setting divisions as basic unit for devolution. There is need to combine 1979 and 2001/5 local governments order, based upon the merits minus the shortcomings, to draft an efficient local govt system, he added.

Dr. Abid Suleri, Executive Director, SDPI deliberated that local governance is a process which has to be continued for positive change within the society. He said that one system might not suit all provinces, so provinces needs to work on refining their systems by defining agreements and disagreements.

Anja Minaret, Resident Representative FES called for collect action plan for revival of local government system in Pakistan and said that there is efficient local governance system in Germany on principle of subsidiary. Pakistan should also reintroduce the local governance system, which is the essence of democracy, she went on saying.

Zahid Islam of SANGAT Foundation highlighted some of the achievement of 2001 Local Government System that included mobilization of marginalized section of society such as women, peasants and workers and advocacy of basic rights . He also presented some suggestion to remove shortcoming in the system.

Mr Raza Rumi, International Development Expert/ADB , Mr Sarwar Bari, Executive Director, Pattan, Mr Asif Hasnain, MNA, MQM, Mr Zafar Ullah, Executive Director, Centre for Civic Education  and eminent lawyers Mr.Babar Sattar and Mr Majid Bashir also attended and spoke at the event.