THIS is with reference to the report about the draft local government system of Punjab (July 25). I think that without empowering the third tier of local governance, this election exercise will be of no use.
Every province wants to give its own local government system on the views of political parties, which will hurt the fundamental rights and the constitution of Pakistan.
Article 140-A of the constitution is very much clear about the local government. Empowerment of the people at the local level is a must and the union council unit actually represents the elected people. The local government tier must have a legal personality distinct from the provincial and federal governments.
It must have specified powers to perform a range of functions. It must enjoy autonomy as an elected body operating independently of the provincial and federal governments. The provincial government should have some role in the financial control and accountability over government officials.
Local autonomy may include, among other things, local government’s ability to make its own laws, rules and regulations; formulate, execute and evaluate its own plans and the right to recruit, promote, develop and discipline its own staff.
Local people understand their problems confronting them more intimately than any other people and are better placed to address them.
The local government ensures participation of people in governance. Participation by citizens is crucial for democracy and development. When citizens participate in the planning, execution, utilisation and assessment of work designed to improve their welfare; success of those efforts is assured.
As long as the provincial government does not empower union councils, problems of communities will not resolve. The local governance system 2001 has been well tested by all the provinces for nine consecutive years (2001 to 2010).
Many lessons have been learnt from LG 2001 and have been recorded at every level. Many national and international donors have been involved at each and every stage of the 2001 local government system.
The main lesson which has been learnt over the years was that the union council must be strengthened administratively, as well as financially, so that elected representatives at the UC level should properly decide about the development of their areas.
The unit of tehsil is not required if the union council is well-empowered. All powers should be given to the union council and then to the district.
The union council should consist of at least 15 to 20 elected members and they all should have administrative and financial powers. The 18th Amendment also empowers communities through decentralisation of powers at the local tier.
I would like to suggest that all provincial governments sit together (the Council of Common Interest can support) and agree on one local government system, if possible. Political parties have their own experienced and enlightened minds that can also give support to the system .
In our political and geographical situation, four different local government systems at provincial level will further harm the remaining national harmony, so understanding is required at all levels.
AIJAZ ALI KHUWAJA Karachi