PESHAWAR: In a major policy shift, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf provincial government has decided to abolish the district government, the most effective tier of the existing local government system.
After doing away with the district government, the remaining two tiers — the tehsil and the village and neighbourhood governments — would be further empowered, sources said. They said that major changes were under consideration in the remaining two tiers of the LG system.
The decision in this regard was taken in a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan during his maiden visit to Peshawar on Friday. It was also attended by Chief Minister Mahmood Khan, cabinet members, MNAs and MPAs.
Minister for Local Government Shahram Khan Tarakai told Dawn on Saturday that the tehsil government was more accessible to the masses compared to the district government. Asked about reasons for abolishing the district government, he said that several functions of the district and tehsil governments were overlapping and that was why the government had decided to abolish one of them.
LG minister cites overlapping functions of tehsil and district govts as reason for the decision
Asked who would be the administrative head of the 20 devolved departments currently headed by the district nazim, Mr Tarakai said that threadbare discussion would be held to sort out such issues. However, he said, that powers would be further devolved to the tehsil and village and neighbourhood councils on need basis.
He said that some powers of the devolved departments would be retained by the provincial government.
Regarding legislation for bringing the proposed changes in the LG system, he said that it was not yet clear whether the government would bring a new law or introduce amendments to the existing KP Local Government Act, 2013.
The minister was not clear about completion of tenure of the existing three-tier local governments, which is likely to be completed by the end of May 2019. The district government would not be abolished anytime soon as the consultation on changes in the LG system would take three to four months.
Regarding other changes, he said that the number of members of the village and neighbourhood councils would be reduced to five or six from the existing 10 or 15 members. The nazim/chairman of the village/neighbourhood council would also be a member of the tehsil council and there would be no separate elections for tehsil councils.
Another big change in the system was that the tehsil mayor would be elected directly by the masses while under the existing system the tehsil councillors used to elect tehsil nazim.
Reacting to the decision to abolish the district government tier, senior vice-president of Local Councils Association (LCA) Sahibzada Fasihullah told Dawn that it was a violation of the Article 140-A of the Constitution.
Mr Fasihullah, who is also district nazim of Upper Dir, said that bureaucracy seemed to have succeeded in its design of abolishing the district governments and retaining ultimate powers of the district.
In the absence of the district nazim, the bureaucrats would enjoy the powers of running the districts instead of elected representatives, he said.
“The LCA will oppose abolition of the district government at all forums,” he said and added that they would also go to the court from the platform of LCA against this decision. He also warned to launch a protest campaign if the government didn’t withdraw its decision.
Published in Dawn, September 30th, 2018