It has taken care of every aspect of local government and devolution
From Shamim Ahmed
Apr 03 - 09, 2000
The district government proposal announced by the Chief Executive Gen
Pervez Musharraf at a press conference on Pakistan Day (March 23) may bring about a
profound change in the way we have governed ourselves sofar. The comprehensive district
and local government outline programme provides for a genuine devolution of power at the
grassroots level. According to the plan the non-party elections to the three tiers of
local bodies institutions will be held from December 2000 to July 2001. Gen Musharraf
listed four guiding principles of his new plan as let people be master of their destinies,
subordination of government functionaries to elected representatives to make them serve
the people, provision of speedy justice to the common man at his doorstep and making
district councils self-reliant and self-sufficient by according them full fiscal autonomy.
By August 14, 2001 all the councils will be on the ground.
The most striking feature of the plan is that it has taken care of
every aspect of local government and devolution of power. First the voters age has been
reduced from 21 years to 18 years to ensure greater participation of the youth in the
electoral process. And there are no two opinions that the youth of today is intelligent
and more conscious of the working and functioning of democracy. Secondly, the plan
provides for a handsome participation of women in the local government. As a matter of
fact they have been given equal participation with the male members. This kind of
participation for women is not available even in the Western world. Lastly, the local
councils would be fully empowered in all respects. They would make their own laws, plan
for development of their areas, would raise their own funds and spend as they like. This
should go a long way in eliminating disharmony between the units of the federation. While
announcing the devolution of power plan, Gen. Pervez Musharraf described it as the start
of a new era of democracy and commended the efforts of the National Reconstruction Bureau
(NRB) for doing an excellent job.
The announcement made by the Chief Executive was followed by a press
conference by the NRB Chief Gen(R) Tanvir Hussain Naqvi who claimed that everything under
the new system of district governments stemmed from Article 7 and 32 of the 1973
Constitution. When asked whether the system would sustain the changes taking place in
future, he said: "We do feel that the system of district government needs protection
for which we will take appropriate steps".
In the press conference, which was primarily called to elaborate what
was unfolded by the Chief Executive, Gen (R) Naqvi explained that the district government
would have 13 major departments under them. These departments are health, education,
literacy, commerce and industries, law, agriculture, coordination, finance, planning and
budget, public work, environment, democratic development, information technology, revenue,
"The district administration will initially be set up with the
existing line departments However, it will gradually move toward corporate governance
driven by an entrepreneurial approach", Mr. Naqvi said, adding, "this involves
the introduction of a customer-service orientation toward the citizenery, result-based
management through achievement indicators, performance evaluations, hiring, promotions,
transfers and firing based on monitoring through committees."
The tehsil councils will perform two main functions. i) Provision of
municipal services to the entire tehsil through the local government functionaries serving
under the control of the mayor; ii)and coordinating the monitoring of the district
government functionaries at the tehsil level.
About the qualification of candidates for the local government,
elections, Mr. Naqvi said a citizen of Pakistan, at least 25 years of age, possessing a
good moral character and enrolled as a voter in electoral; roll of the relevant union,
could contest these elections. A candidate cannot contest elections if he is for the time
being disqualified from being elected; is a wilful tax evader or a loan defaulter, or has
not paid his/her utility bills, or is an undischarged insolvent; has been guilty of a
corrupt or illegal practice; has been convicted for any offence involving moral turpitude
and has been sentenced to imprisonment unless a period of five years has elapsed since
his/her release; has been removed / compulosorily retired from the service of Pakistan
unless a period of five years has elapsed since his removal; is a public government
servant; holds an office of profit in the service of Pakistan except Lumbardars, Qaumi
Razakars etc, is propagating any opinion or acting prejudicial to the ideology,
sovereignty, integrity, security of Pakistan etc.
These qualifications, according to NRB chief, have been derived from
Article 62 and 63 of the constitution. When no candidate for elective office receives more
than 50 per cent of the votes, the election authority will within one week conduct a
run-off election between the two candidates who polled the highest number of votes. The
run-off election will be applicable to the elections of the chief mayor and deputy mayor
on or joint ticket, and mayors of the tehsils.
He said the chief mayor can be removed through a resolution by the
two-thirds majority of the district assembly. However, this resolution will have to win
simple majority votes from union councils as well.
The chief may or can also dissolve the district assembly if he believes
that it is not wroking in line with its mandate. However, his decision will require the
endorsement by simple majority of union councils.
Provincial government, Naqvi said, would also have the power to dismiss
any of its district government if it really believed that it was not working according to
the mandate. However, this decision of the provincial government could only be implemented
after the approval of the senate by showing simple majority.
Dreaming that the country's cities, towns and rural areas would prosper
and develop like anything under the new system, the NRB chief said that the existing
system of imperialism and colonialism was introduced to watch the interest of the crown
through offices like deputy commissioners, tehsildars and patwaris. "We are turning
around this system to serve the interest of the people," he said aiding that the
people of Pakistan were valuable asset to them.
When asked whether the district government could change the things when
the existing deep-rooted systems of feudalism and capitalism were in place, he believed,
" it is a romantic notion to keep the money out of politics" He said several
countries in the world had made laws to curb the influence of money into politics but
could not achieve the desired results.
To another question seeking a minimum level of education for
candidates, he said, "we will not adopt any undemocratic methods to evolve a genuine
democracy". He rejected the general impression that illiterate people were not
politically conscious and termed it an "elitist nation".
To another question, he said, the main objective of the new system is
to turnaround the existing urban rural divide through urban rural integration which would
bring development everywhere, including the rural areas. For the first time, he said,
urban areas would also elect union council. The district judiciary would be reformed to
meet the following ends; Disposal of 90 per cent of the complaints of litigants within the
district; efficacious delivery of justice; prompt disposal of cases bringing justice to
the doorstep; and preemption of litigation. Public safety and justice committees will also
be constituted at union and district levels by electing from among union councillers and
district assembly members respectively to monitor police and judicial activities in their
The decision of the present government to keep these proposal under
public Rebate till Aug. 1 is most appropriate in the view of the complexity of a new
scheme. The final programme will be announced on Aug 14 which will be formulated in the
height of the discussions and public debate which may help the authorities to further
improve the programme.