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With his Independence Day address, the President is likely to launch his prestigious district government plan

From Shamim Ahmed Rizvi,
Aug 13 - 19, 2001

The stage is finally set to install the new district government throughout the country except the federal capital, Islamabad, wef August 14, 2001. All the provincial governments have agreed to promulgate the local government ordinance 2001 before August 14 to formally switch over to the new district government set-up under the present government devolution plan.

Chief Executive Secretariat sources revealed that the ordinance, which would completely change the face of the centuries-old district administration system and would bring the bureaucracy under the city fathers, is expected to be issued in a couple of days by all the provincial governments. In a recent meeting held under the Chief Executive General Prevez Musharraf it was agreed by all the provincial governors that the provinces would promulgate this ordinance during the first week of August, 2001.

The National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB), which had prepared the model local government ordinance 2001 after months of deliberations and consultations, sent the proposed act to the provinces on June 30, 2001 for promulgation. The provincial governments have been allowed to make suitable amendments in the proposed ordinance to meet the special demands arising out of the peculiarities, if any, of their areas. The provinces, however, have been barred from making any amendment that may alter or dilute the concept given in the proposed ordinance for the new district government set-up.

With his Independence Day address to the nation, the President is likely to launch his prestigious district government plan which has been a subject of heated controversy during the last over a year. The last critical phase concerning the district government was completed on August 2, when polls of Nazim and Deputy Nazims were held. Out of 84 districts in 35 districts fresh polls were held on August 8 as none of the candidate in these districts could not secure more than 50 per cent of the votes polled in August 2 polling. On an over all basis the election remained fair and peaceful.

To whip up allegations of election rigging and manipulation by the losers is, of course, an international phenomenon. Even the traditional democracies like that of the United States and Britain are not immune to it. The allegations are particularly rampant in our country, where democracy is still nascent. In the lust for power, the possibility of irregularities on the part of the candidates cannot be ruled out completely. Since the present Government is engaged in evolving a new system of honest, transparent and responsive self- governance, the allegations of 'official interference' and 'selective rigging' in the recent local government polls, should not be taken for granted. It is desirable to look into the allegations both by the Government and the Election Commission in order to ensure that the new system is above board. Pakistan has made enough of experiments of the systems of governance, which have invariably failed due to our own follies.

The devolution plan has however not succeeded to bring new faces or introducing clean politics. Majority of the people who have been elected are from old politicians. According to Javed Hashmi, acting president of PML (N) more than 90 per cent of those elected had either been ministers or MPAs in the former political governments. The present Government's pride project aimed at creating a new leadership in the country but they have not succeeded to achieve the desired result. The Jamaat, as a result, of these elections has emerged as a third force with PPP as the main opposition party. Despite the unpredictability electoral exercise it is now established that the politicians, of by and large, have accepted the devolution plan of the present government. They should now wholeheartedly try to make this experiment a success.

The devolution plan, by and large, is a good idea and its implementation will lead to many good results and help country in getting rid of many legacies of the colonial age. The plan finally aims to do what should have been done long ago. Beginning August 14, the Independence Day, all the trial functions of the executive magistracy are to be transferred to the judicial branch, while its executive responsibilities are to go to the relevant government departments and the newly-elected Nazims.

When the British introduced the concept of executive magistracy, assigning unlimited powers to the office of district magistrate, the purpose obviously was not to serve but to control the natives effectively. The magistracy helped them as a convenient tool to pressure the opponents of the colonial rule and punish them whenever needed. Unfortunately, like so many other vestiges of the colonial rule, this one too has remained in place for more than five decades after independence simply because the rulers were also interested in controlling rather than serving the people.

On principle, there could be not two opinions on that the democratic concept of separation of the executive and the judiciary needed to be implemented at all levels.