New District Governments
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
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.