PESHAWAR: The district nazims from across Khyber Pakhtunkhwa on Wednesday asked the provincial government not to do away with the district tier of the local government system and said the local bodies should be further empowered in the ‘larger public interest’.
The demand was made through the passage of a resolution during a convention of district nazims here.
Nazims Mohammad Asim Khan of Peshawar, Fasihullah of Upper Dir, Mohammad Ali Shah of Malakand, Naseem Afridi of Kohat, and others attended the convention. The convention was called to discuss possible changes to the Local Government Act, 2013, by the government.
The provincial government recently proposed to abolish district councils.
Participants of the convention decided that all district nazims would convene meetings of their respective councils from Feb 1 to 15 to pass resolutions against the proposed abolition of the district tier.
They also agreed to stage a sit-in outside the provincial assembly and said as a last resort, they would take the government to the court of law against the district councils’ abolition.
Presenting the resolution, Local Council Association president Himayatullah Mayar said the province was ‘overburdened’ due to the decentralisation of powers through the 18th Constitutional Amendment.
He, however, regretted that instead of devolving powers to the local governments, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government in the province has decided to abolish the district tier of the LG system though it was the most important than the two others, including tehsil and village and neighbourhood councils, which would remain intact.
Mr Mayar said there were three tiers of governance in the country, including federal, provincial and district governments and that the abolition of the district tier was against the spirit of articles 32, 37(5) and 140-A of the Constitution.
He wondered who the administrative head of the district would be after the abolition of the nazim’s office. The nazim said the idea of abolishing district councils came from the bureaucracy as in the absence of nazims, the deputy commissioners would enjoy all powers in districts.
Upper Dir nazim Fasihullah contested the government’s claim that the district governments’ powers would be devolved to the tehsil ones, saying that won’t happen as many devolved departments don’t have any setup at tehsil level.
“In such situation, the provincial government will accumulate devolved powers with people being the ultimate sufferers as they, especially those from far-off areas, will have to visit the provincial secretariat for the resolution of their problems, which is currently being done by the district governments,” he said.
Malakand nazim Ahmad Ali Shah asked all nazims to come forward to fight for the survival of the LG system and warned that if that didn’t happen, the future generations won’t forgive them.
He said a lot of administrative issues would emerge in the new government system including the one about who to pass the budget for devolved departments in the absence of district councils.
“I think all administrative and financial powers of districts will be given to deputy commissioners in the upcoming new local government system,” he said.
Peshawar nazim Mohammad Asim Khan said the province’s local government system was far better than the other provinces’.
“I favour this local government system,” he said.
However, the nazim, who belongs to the PTI, said instead of the abolition of the district councils, flaws in the district tier of LG system should be removed.
“In the existing system, district nazims have little administrative powers, which should be increased,” he said adding that the nazims have managed affairs of districts during the last four years well despite facing many financial and administrative problems.
Published in Dawn, January 24th, 2019