APROPOS the article ‘Decentralised governance’ (July 3). The track record of local governments has been a topsy-turvy affair in Pakistan since independence. Local governments for the most part have not been entrusted with the maintenance of law and order, infrastructure development, revenue generation, promotion of health, education and other basic services.
Since local governments and decentralisation at the grassroots level, through the Punjab Local Government Act 2019, are still in process, the following suggestions should be considered to make it more productive.
1) The provincial government’s overriding authority such as discretionary removal of elected LG representatives, arbitrary powers of inspection and placing LG affairs with the district and tehsil bureaucracy should be eliminated.
2) The criteria for development funds etc through the local government finance commission (Section 174 PLGA, 2019) should be spelled out to avoid arbitrary allocations.
3) Clause 5 (2) can be made more progressive by including the human rights protection in line with Pakistan’s constitution.
4) The quota for women, minorities and youth (Section 20(1) read with 2nd schedule of PLGA, 2019 be reviewed and increased at least to the level of LGO 2001 to achieve inclusive governance at the local level.
5) Direct elections to the ‘Councils’ (Section 18 (1)(C), PLGA 2019) should be conducted to provide checks and balances to the powers of the mayor/chairperson.
Last but not least, elections for the local government and the Punjab provincial assembly should be held on the same day to lower the possibility of disagreement between both governments.
Ahmad Waqar Shahid
Published in Dawn, July 13th, 2020