KARACHI: A proposal on conducting the local government (LG) elections in the remaining districts of Sindh in two phases is under consideration.

This was stated by Joint Provincial Election Commissioner Ali Asghar Sial during a stakeholders’ dialogue organised by the Centre for Peace and Development Initiatives (CPDI) in collaboration with the Freidrich Nauman Foundation for Freedom (FNF), Pakistan, here on Monday.

Speakers at the event urged the Sindh government to strengthen the LG system in Sindh and commence the second phase without any further delay.

Mr Sial said it was due to the shortage of security personnel that the polls might take place in further two phases.

The dialogue was attended by MPAs, lawyers, LG elected representatives, chief security officers, representatives of the Election Commission of Pakistan and the media. They reflected upon the existing status of the LG governments in Sindh, lacunae in its act, challenges and the way forward for improvement in the law.

Addressing the participants, senior politician and lawyer Syed Hafeezuddin of the Pak Sarzameen Party said Clause 112 of the Sindh Local Government Act made it compulsory for the provincial government to issue the Provincial Finance Commission (PFC) award every four years and distribute financial share to all districts and local government agencies from the provincial revenue as per the formula.

But the provincial government had failed to finalise the procedure for distribution of provincial revenue in the past 15 years. The issue must be resolved immediately on the pattern of the National Finance Commission (NFC), he said.

Pakistan Muslim League-Functional MPA Shaharyar Khan Mahar said an empowered local government system in accordance with Article 140-A of the constitution was the need of the hour. He also stated that the Sindh government was not committed to implement the Sindh Local Government Act (SLGA) 2013 in its true spirit. “LGs have the primary role of planning and managing all aspects of disasters and floods, but the Sindh government was unable to deal with the relief and rehabilitation due to the absence of empowered LGs,” he said.

Former federal minister and senior politician Raza Haroon emphasised the need of a constitutional amendment for the protection of local governments as a third tier of government. “India has the best LG system and Pakistan should replicate their best LG practices here,” he said, adding that Karachi lacked a unified command structure as the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation’s (KMC) functioning as the city’s municipality was partial. Its jurisdiction covered only 30 per cent of the city, he added. “Unity of command for the metropolitan and district government as far as municipal and civic functions under the mayor or chairman should be inserted in chapter four of the constitution,” he said.

Senior economist Kaisar Bengali said the civil society and political leadership of Karachi should mount a campaign for a strong and empowered local government in conjunction with the Sindhi leadership.

Muttahida Qaumi Movement MPA Mangla Sharma said that no one could deny the importance of local governments, but the elections must be held after delimitation. She also emphasised for the need of making LGs more inclusive for women, public work departments and religious minorities.

Sindh Services and Local Government Academy Director Abdul Nasir Siddiqui said the SLGA 2013 should be amended to include a complaint cell at the level of the local government. “Due to non-availability of such provision in the act, people are approaching the complaint cell established at the federal government level,” he pointed out.

Prof Dr Noman Ahmed of the NED university Karachi said that democracy could not flourish without local governments. “LGs are nurseries for all democratic structures. Strong, decisive, dedicated and committed leadership emerges from elected local government systems,” he said.

CPDI executive director Mukhtar Ahmad Ali said that a diploma programme in local government and administration was started in Karachi University in 2013, but later without giving any reason, admissions to the programme were stopped.

Published in Dawn, November 8th, 2022

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