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Pakistan Today

Published Date: Aug 2, 2013

Speakers urge democratically representative LG system

Parliamentarians and experts called
for the introduction of a democratically representative local government (LG)
system to ensure meaningful participation of the citizens.
A discussion on this topic took place on Thursday at the national conference on
‘Local Governments Legislation and Citizens Concerns’. The conference sought to
raise public concerns about the gaps in draft local body 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
the AAWAZ Voice and Accountability programme. The programme aimed to ensure
inclusive democratic processes and to improve the state’s accountability to its
citizens.
AAWAZ consortium partners included the Strengthening Participatory Organization
(SPO), the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI),the Aurat Foundation
(AF), the South Asia Partnership-Pakistan (SAP-Pk) and the Sungi Development
Foundation.
At the occasion Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s National Assembly Member (PML-N
MNA) and National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB)’s former chairman Daniyal Aziz
said that the separation of the judiciary from the executive at a local level
was a constitutional requirement for the rule of law, adding that local
governance was the lynchpin of a local democratic government versus a colonial
system.
Talking of bureaucratic involvement in the current local bodies’ legislation,
he said that executive officers must not think they would 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 added.
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman’s Advisor and Former State Interior
Minister Shahzad Waseem briefed the meeting on Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP)’s draft
local government bill.
Waseem revealed that in the KP bill the village councils, which he considered
the basic building block of system, had been politically, administratively and
financially empowered.
He also shared a new aspect of the ‘Nano Blocks’ which would be established in
urban centres. Waseem said that women, minorities and peasants would be given
increased representation via the bill.
He also lamented the dysfunctional local bodies system in the capital territory
which was being administered by the CDA and the ICT. He said that it was flawed
and further divided the rural and urban areas, with urban Islamabad completely
unrepresented at local level.
Furthermore, he said that the village council would be made financially
autonomous through the allocation of development funds and by attracting
investments from overseas Pakistanis by adopting a village scheme.
Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM)’s Deputy Convener and Parliamentary Leader
Farooq Sattar said that in current times, the local government not only
provided municipal or civic services but was also the engine for economic
growth.
He also said that local governments, with the help of the police and the
neighborhoods, could play an effective role in countering terrorism.
National Commission on Status of Women (NCSW) Chairperson Khawar Mumtaz
presented the official position of the NCSW, which she added, was following its
mandate and was based on constitutional provisions and the experience of women’s
representation in local government’s especially from 2001-2009.
Two Constitutional provisions namely Article 32 and Article 140-A were
particularly important she added, saying that Article 32 stated 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”.
She said that article 140-A prescribed 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.
AAWAZ Steering Committee Chair and SPO Executive Director Naseer Memon welcomed
the participants and gave a detailed summary of the conference’s objectives.
Furthermore, he highlighted the importance of local governance in light of
people’s access to justice, resources and their right to information. He also
said that democracy was incomplete without a tier of local governance. He
demanded a constitutional guarantee for the uninterrupted continuance of the
local governance system.
Memon also called for the clear demarcation of roles, functions and powers, not
only between elected representatives and the bureaucracy but also between the
provinces and different tiers of local governments.
Aurat Foundation Chief Operating Officer Naeem Mirza presented a critique on
the Punjab Local Government Act. He said that a negative aspect of the act was
its sharp rural-urban divide in the province.
There should be no rural-urban divide in the application of local governments
and the union council with the village council/peri urban settlement, he said.
He also said that an autonomous local government commission under the
chairpersonship of the Chief Minister or his representatives needed to be
established to look after local governmental affairs.
AAWAZ Programme’s Naghma Imdad described the focus of the programme and its
objectives of advocacy and research. She also said that the programme was
currently being run in 45 districts of Punjab and KP.
Human Rights Activist Tahira Abdullah said the local government was the first
and not the third tier of the government.
Tahira added that the local government would help in getting rid of the feudal
and tribal systems. 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 and any distric,
tehsil or union council elections where political parties agreed to ban women
from contesting elections or from the voting process must be declared null and
void.
Aurat Foundation’s Feroza Zahra presented a citizen’s charter of demand suggesting
a minimum of 33 percent representation for women, 10 percent for peasants and 5
percent for minorities at all tiers of local government. She demanded an end to
rural-urban divide and that the union council should be comprised of at least
20 members to ensure meaningful participation of all citizens, and should have
constitutional protection, fiscal and administrative autonomy.
SDPI Executive Director Abid Qaiyum Suleri presented the concluding
remarks
while Sisters Trust Executive Director Rehana Hashmi gave a brief
account of
the struggle of women councilors in the precious local government
system. – See
more at:
http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2013/08/01/news/national/speakers-urge-democratically-representative-lg-system/#sthash.C2esZWPv.dpuf