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A cursory glance on structure of LG System in Pakistan

Shaukat Hayat Buneri

By local self-government, we mean the administration of local areas run by its elected representatives. In modern states there is a great importance of the local self-government because democracy is made real in local self- government. A nation may establish a system of free government, but without the spirit of local bodies or institutions it cannot have the spirit of liberty.

After independence, the policy of the Pakistan government in regard to local government was that fullest autonomy shall be granted to local  bodies; this was borne out by the 1948 Muslim League Manifesto which stood for the ‘very widest extension of Local government . The system of local government inherited by Pakistan in 1947 was a product of a series of British efforts made from time to time through reforms, laws and commissions, to promote local institutions autonomous in certain respects but substantially under the control of the provincial government through district officers.

Despite these steps and prompt actions taken, the local government institutions in West   Pakistan made no appreciable progress. The above state of affairs more or less continued to prevail throughout the first decade of Pakistan’s existence and no worthy advance was made until the promulgation of Basic Democracies Order in 1959.

Structure of basic  democracy – Ayub period: The new local governments, established under the Basic Democracies Ordinance, 1959 and the Municipal Administration Ordinance 1960, comprised a hierarchical system of four linked tiers. The lowest tier, which was the union councils, comprised of members elected on the basis of adult franchise who, in turn, elected a chairman from amongst themselves. The higher tiers of local government had some members elected indirectly by these directly elected members and some official members nominated by the Government and had these officials as Chairmen.

The Basic Democracies scheme failed because its authors tried to shape it against the fundamental laws that is to say that they did not adhere to the concept that autonomy is the corner stone of local govt. the most important and controversial function which was included in constitutions of 1962 was that members of the lowest tier, the Union Councilors, were designated as the Electoral College and empowered to elect the President and the members of national and provincial assemblies.

Local government in Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto and Zia’s regime!

When Pakistan People’s Party with Zulfiqar Bhutto came to power, the concept of People’s Local Government was introduced. In the law  and order each province passed its own local laws . In the new order- institutions of local government were set up on their own accounts and had no political strings.

It comprised District Co-uncil- Halqa Council -Dehi Council -Municipal Corpo-ration-Municipal Committee -Town Committee

It provided representation for minorities, women, peasants and workers on the local councils. The local councils were required to hold meeting once a year to which voters were to be invited. The new law introduced some useful reforms in the field of local government. But as elections were never held under the new law, and the local councils were not constituted under the new law, these reforms were not implemented. The country did not have any Local Government system during the period 1971 to 1979.

The new Martial Law Government of General Zia-ul- Haq declared in clear terms their policy of revitalizing local government. In undertaking of this policy new local government laws were drafted for each province, Federal Area, Northern Areas, and Azad Kashmir. These laws were promulgated and enforced in 1979. These laws followed the same pattern, but slight variations were made here and there to suit local circumstances.

The Zia and Post-Zia period

Centralization Reinforced Through Direct Military Control of Quasi-Presiden-tial Government • Implem-ented Bhutto’s LGOs – No Constitutional Protection Given to Elected Bodies – Provision of Municipal Services Primary Objective – Local Governments Given Little Financial Power • Non-Party Basis of Electi-ons Curtailed Power of Parties, and Prolonged Cust-oms Politics and Elite Cap-ture

Structure of local government during Zia’s regime

Provincial Govt Urban Town Committee (270) Wards (3568) Municipal Committee (117) Wards (2694) Municipal Corporat-ion (11) Wards (836) Metropolitan Corporation (2) Wards (219) Rural Distt Council (86) Wards (3373) Union Councils (3786) Wards (61292)

  • Urban Councils Enjo-yed Higher Levels of Re-venue and Income than Ru-ral and semi-Urban Ones.
  • Urban Councils Under No Obligation To Provide Funds to Rural or semi-Urban Areas
  • Rural and semi-Urban Areas Dependent on Provincial Administrative Tier for Financial Support • Competition between Urban Middle Class and Numerically Strong Rural Elites for Resource• Non-Party Based Elections in 1985 Created Localization of Politics at all Levels • Revival of Party Basis (1988) Did Not Reverse Localization of Politics Due to Weakened Parties • Space Left by Parties Filled by Fluid Local Political Factions

Local Govt in Musharaf’s regime In order to establish democracy at grassroots level, the regime of General Pervez Musharaf, introduced the Local Government System. This was not a new experiment in Pakistan. This new system of Local Government was installed on August 14, 2001, after holding of elections. Direct elections on non-party basis were held in five phases for members of Union Councils, Union Nazim, and Naib Union Nazim during 2000 to 2001. Distribution of resourcesü Diffusion of the power – authority nexus and ü De-concentration of management functions ü Decentr-alization of Administrative authority ü Devolution of Political Power ü The Local Govt was based on five ground rules:- It was implemented in September 2001 – Introduced by General Pervaiz Musharraf in Jan 2001

The New Devolution of power plan: The lowest tier, the union government was a corporate body covering the rural as well as urban areas across the whole District • It consisted of Union Nazim, Naib Union Nazim and three Secretaries and other auxiliary staff • The Union Nazim was the head of Union Administration. The Union Secretaries coordinated and facilitated in community development, functioning of the Union Committees and delivery of municipal services under the supervision of union Nazim • In addition to fiscal transfers from the Provinces, the Local Govt were authorized to generate money from their own resources by levying certain taxes, fees, user charges etc

Tehsil government:

  • The middle tier, the Tehsil Govt, had Tehsil Municipal Administration, headed by the Tehsil Nazim • Tehsil Municipal Administration consisted of a Tehsil Nazim, a Tehsil Municipal Officer, Tehsil Officer, Chief Officers and other officials. • The Tehsil Municipal Administration was entrusted with the function of administration, finances, the management of the offices of the local govt and rural development and numerous other subjects at the regional, divisional, district, Tehsil and lower levels.

District government:

  • The District Gove-rnment consisted of Zila Nazim and District Admin-istration • The District Administration consisted of District Officers including sub-offices at Tehsil level, who were to be responsible to the District Nazim assisted by the District Coordinator Officer • The District Coordinator Officer was appointed by the Provincial Govt and was the coordinating head of the District Administration •

The Zila Nazim was accountable to the people through elected members of the Zila Council. A Zila Council was consisted of all Union Nazims in the Districts. The Zila Council has separate budget allocation • The District Govt was responsible to the people and Provincial Govt for improvement of Governance and delivery of services

On the basis of these direct elections, indirect elections were held in July-August 2001 for Zila Nazim and Naib Zila Nazim and also for Tehsil-Town Nazim and Naib Nazim. In order to attract people towards electoral politics, the minimum age for local government elections was lowered from 21 to 18 years. One-third seats were reserved for women. The offices of Division Commiss-ioner and District Commissi-oner (DC) were abolished and their roles and functions were distributed to the District Government headed by the elected mayor (Nazi-ms) and including a District Coordination Officer (DCO) who reported to the Nazims.

The magisterial powers of the DC were withdrawn and given to the judiciary and police. The role of police oversight formerly held by the DC was abolished and the responsibility of law and order was entrusted to the Nazims

In accordance with analysis Local Governments Acts of 2013- the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, the provincial assembly of Balochistan passed the LG Act in 2010, whereas the provincial assemblies of Punjab, Sindh and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa passed their LG Acts in 2013.

Despite a lack of enthusiasm, and due consultation during the formulation stage, the passage of the LG Acts is a significant milestone.

One striking feature of all four LG Acts, in comparison with the LGO 2001, is that none of the Acts devolves sufficient functions and powers to the local governments, and all four provincial governments have retained the authority to suspend or remove the heads of an elected local government. The functioning of the Local Government Fund is managed by the Finance Department and Finance Minister of the province.

Are the local bodies elected  on party basis?  All four LG Acts provide for local government elections on a party basis. Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan will have Union Councils and District Councils in the rural areas and Union Councils/Committees and Municipal Committees in the urban areas. The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa LG Act also provides for Tehsil Councils and Village Councils in the rural areas and Neighbourhood Councils in the urban areas.

Structure and Constituency Delimitation: The electoral process also varies across provinces. Punjab provides for direct elections for the posts of Chairmen and Vice-Chairmen of the Union Councils, whereas Sindh envisages indirect election of Chairman and Vice-Chairman of Union Council from a panel of nine Councilors elected to the general and reserved seats.

Term limits and the electoral process: The LG Acts of 2013 are not consistent on the term limits of the local governments. Punjab provides for a term of five years, Sindh and Balochistan of four years, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa of three years.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provides for direct elections of members for all seats (reserved and non-reserved) in the Village and Neighborhood Councils. In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the reserved seats for women, peasants, youth and minorities will be filled through proportional representation by the political parties on the basis of the number of seats won. In both Punjab and Sindh, the heads of District Councils will be chosen indirectly through an electoral college comprising all members of the respective council By show of hands.

Functions of local governments: Culture (fairs and shows etc, Libraries, museum, exhibitions etc) Trees, Parks, Gar-dens and Forests – Education (Adult / Primary)  Streets (Permission of laying out street and proper lightening of streets, Traffic Planning, Street Watering) , Slaughter House , Civil Defense – Fire fighting service – Water supply and drainage ,

Social Welfare (Welfare homes, asylums, orphanages, widow and shelter houses and other institutions for the relief of the distressed, Prevention of beggary, gambling, taking of injurious drugs and consumption of alcoholic liquor and other social services)

Vehicles (other,Cinemas, dramatic and theatrical shows etc , Advertisements including bill board and hoarding , Fee for registration and certificates of birth and death, marriages and divorce , Tax on transfer of immovable property , Tax on the annual value of buildings and lands , are some of the functions being performed by the local governments. In other words the works and functions of local nature and importance are handed over or devolved to the local government by the central or provincial governments .

Sources of income of local government: Motor vehicle that  including carts bi- cycles and all kinds of boats) Fees for licenses, sanctions and permits granted by the Local Govt, Fees for markets , Fees for fairs, agricultural shows, industrial exhibition, tournaments and other public gatherings  Schools fees in respect of schools established or maintained by the Local Govt  Rate for the supply of water , Tolls on roads, bridges and ferries ,

Grants by Provincial / Federal Govt, if any, Any other tax which is levied by Government Fisheries Fee – Parking Fee Fees for slaughtering of Animals Through Local Self Govt .

Local governments are called the primary schools of democracy: There is a great saving of money in the administration, because the people of local areas pay the taxes and their representatives know well how difficult it is to pay taxes. Thus there is no misuse of the taxes, It brings efficiency in the administration because the representative of local areas understand local problems well and they can solve them in a better way. People get interested in the administration and their cooperation is increased. People get training in democracy. That is why it is called the primary school of democracy –

Advantages of local self government: The local bodies are useful because they provide drinking water, clean roads and streets, good drains, good libraries and reading rooms, museums, zoos and beautiful parks etc.

The workload of the provincial government as already cited above is lightened by entrusting work to local bodies. The local functions are efficiently performed by the local institutions and not by provincial government, because, the latter is already overburdened with work. The experience has shown in comparison to federal and provincial governments, local government is more accessible, more sympathetic, and quicker to respond to local needs.

Therefore, local government should be developed and evolved by the local people according to their own experiences and aspirations. That is what happens in other developed countries of the world. Decentralization of power at the grass roots level leads to better provision of social and civil services, restoration of the real democracy in the country and a more active and beneficial interaction and participation of the masses in all tiers of governance. They must have the power to levy and collect revenues. Devolution without enabling the local governments to raise and manage funds from their own resources is not likely to enable the people to run their own affairs. Since effective lower judiciary is an important part of the system of devolution, new local judicial institutions have to be created and existing one strengthened to provide cheap and immediate justice to the people.

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