PESHAWAR, Dec 7: Representatives of civil society organisations at a seminar on Friday complained of flaws in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Local Government Act (LGA) 2012 and regretted that the law had empowered bureaucracy instead of the people’s elected representatives.
The seminar was organised by Civilians’ Rights and Sustainable Development (CRSD) here at Peshawar Press Club.
Noted among the speakers were Shakeela Khan, Musrat Bibi, Arshad Haroon, Zar Ali, Idrees Kamal, Gul Afzal Shinwari, Jamshed Khan, Shafiq Gigyani, Waqas Ali, Waseyulla Khalil, Jamal Ahmad and Azhar Lashari.
According to them, all powers delegated to the district nazim in LG law in 2001 have been withdrawn under LGA, which has empowered bureaucracy and denied the people access to information.
The panelists said the provincial government deserved praise for being the first in the country to enforce the LGA 2012 but there were flaws in the Act, which had given the maximum of the powers had been given to bureaucracy instead of the people’s elected representatives. One of them regretted the reduction in the number of the women’s seats in union councils under the new law.
“We condemn the reduction of women representation and call for increase in the number of the women’s seats in union councils,” he said.
The panelist said the interim local government system, which was currently in place, had shrunk the space for the people to participate in public affairs and hold the government accountable.
He said with no people-led accountability spaces in place, the decisions pertaining to delivery of basic services were characterised by non-participatory, exclusionary, arbitrary and close processes and mechanisms.
He said the Local Government Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Act 2012 was enacted in June 2012 in light of the 18th Amendment and a Supreme Court ruling, but the rules of business of the local government election in the province had yet to be announced.
The participants expressed concern over unnecessary delay in the holding of local government elections and putting in place a representative local government system under the LGA 2012 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
They said following the end of the last local government’s tenure in 2009, a new interim local government system was established in all four provinces, including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
According to them, the newfound local government system is largely controlled by bureaucracy.
A panelist said since the local governments largely deals with welfare and development of citizens, any legislation related to local governance should be brought under public scrutiny so that different sections of the society should contribute towards making the law responsive to the needs and wishes of the people at large.
He said the government should thoroughly review the local government laws to address the concerns of the civil society.
The participants said there should be a wider public debate over improvement in the new law, which in its current position was against the spirit of democracy and citizens’ participation in the decision-making process.
They said the law should encourage the citizens’ participation instead of empowering the citizens instead of increasing the power and authority of bureaucracy.
The participants said the language of LGA should be gender insensitive and that it should ensure the grant of political, administrative and financial powers to the local government.