ISLAMABAD: Policymakers on Thursday discussed salient features of the new local government (LG) legislation that is in the drafting process to make it more effective in the light of lessons learned from the general elections and its implications on the upcoming local government elections.

The roundtable was hosted by Democracy Reporting International (DRI) to initiate a discussion on the upcoming local government elections to be conducted under the new law.

It also aimed at engaging parliamentarians and experts to provide their input on key areas related to the local government elections such as delimitation, powers, women and minority vote to make it truly effective in catering to the need of the citizens.

Speakers at the sessions highlighted the challenges facing the upcoming elections in the four provincial settings and the existing and proposed laws of local elections.

Bilal Rao, member of the Prime Minister’s Local Government Task Force, said the purpose of the local government elections was to reform governance through local bodies at the grassroots level with the allocation of appropriate funds and delegation of powers.

“Under the proposed legislation, different structures for urban and rural areas are being planned and for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa we have proposed to have a two-tier government, with tehsil and village levels, and eliminate the district tier. The tehsil nazim would be responsible for rural areas and the city mayor would cater to the urban areas.”

He said authority and funding would be transferred to citizens at the village level so that they can decide best for themselves according to their issues and needs.

Taimur Khan, the finance minister of KP, in his telephonic conservation talked about the key features of the new legislation being proposed in KP and Punjab.

This includes establishing and strengthening village councils for the rural areas, and improving the model for urban areas by having city governments that are run by mayors.

Member Provincial Assembly KP Inayatullah Khan of the MMA expressed his reservation over taking the district level off the proposed local government system. He proposed to reduce the number of local nazims and to improve coordination between different tiers.

MPA Khawaja Izharul Hassan of the MQM from Sindh said urban areas needed to have metropolitan authorities for effective local governance.

He said there was no local government system in Pakistan but KP had transferred powers to the grassroots level to some extent.

Nasrullah Barech, MPA (PkMAP) from Balochistan, recommended the allocation of minimum 30pc of all budgets to the local governments.

He also proposed that local representatives should be given powers in the health and education sectors as well at the tehsil level.

MPA Aisha Bano of the PTI called the local government system a nursery for politicians. She recommended that every tier of the local government should be required to submit performance reports annually to improve their performance.

MPA Sardar Babak of the ANP from KP criticised the local government system in the province and said: “It is a complete failure of the government as no nazim or councilor has any authority. Government representatives and bureaucrats control the allocated development budget by telling them where to spend and where not to.”

DRI country representative Javed Ahmed Malik highlighted the need for continuous participatory consultations to strengthen the process of local governance with a particular focus on local elections in order to improve service delivery for development and to advance the human rights agenda.

Published in Dawn, November 23rd, 2018

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