Friday, August 21, 2009

Local Government Dilemma In Pakistan.

Pakistan faces many challenges in governance and democracy.The elected federal and provincial governments have not even completed their second year and many dangerous problems are arising and many poisonous brews are brewing. As the sword of Democles hangs over the new democratic setup so many unimportant in the sense of urgency ,issues are taken up by political parties, not realizing that too much pressure at the wrong time on the federal setup may bring about disastrous results.
The Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) has brought up many issues to the fore which may be very dangerous and seem to be opening a seemingly Pandoras box . the issue of article 6 of high treason against Musharraf seems most vocally put forward.The other of dissolving local body govt., in all of Pakistan and appointing administrators instead for a period of one year. The Sindh and Punjab govts., are very keen on this but the Mutahida Qaumi Movement, who have run these local govts., successfully are opposing this dissolution. The Pakistan muslim League (Q) now Pervez Elahi faction is also resisting dissolution. Another very vocal supporter of local govts., is Danyal Aziz , who has formed the United union councils, Pakistan, a forum for all the representatives of local govt., he says which are around 80, 000. He favors the continuation of this system and questions the Punjab govt., especially on their sincerity towards devolution of power and their capacity for good governance. he presents facts and figures favoing this system and also as to why the audit reports were not submitted by DMG group officers for evaluation and why the current Punjab govt., is failing to bring the corruption charges against the nazims and councillors forward. He is openly accusing the Punjab govt., of paving way by attacking the current system, for getting hold of future funds and eliminating any audit and accountability which is given at the local level.
The PML(Nawaz) is opposing the continuation of the current system it says , because it was made by General Parvez Musharraf to sideline the elected ,popular parties and as he would hold the non-party electedrepresentatives(Nazims) under his direct control by giving them massive funds and they were not even answerable to provincial and fedreal parliaments. This did happen and many corruption cases seem to stem from this . The Mutahida Qaumi Movement(MQM) has used these funds to a good use especially in Karachi where they have built bridges, flyovers, roads, parks etc. The areas in Hyderabad have also been improved. As the behaviour as an organisation of lower and middle class urbanites this party has always taken interest in civic affairs and whether in govt., or not, their workers always clean roads, areas and organise civic activities. For them local govt., system is second nature.Mr. Altaf Hussain has strongly urged the govt., to continue with the system and call for new elections and opposed dissolution.
The Sindh govt., is favoring dissolution and urging the appointment of administrators and putting the issue before provincial asssembly when need arises. They strongly believe that in this way they can dent the working and popularity of MQM and as one elected, old PPP executive comittee member told me personally to finish off MQM.The blame PPP councillors are giving that MQM is not giving their councillors any developmental funds. The other blame they put on MQM is that they are urban and they will not let the rural areas develop. They also blameMQM for corruption.The MQM has answered all these satisfactorially.
Mr Zardari is sitting on a recommendation sent to him by provincial govts.,which favors dissolution. Mr Zardari does not seem to favor dissolution , at least for now.
Th political problems it is posing for him are many and may become serious in the immediate future. if we believe the conspiracy theories bieng hatched, and they are rampant then he may lose support of MQM and other parties which are not directly against him. Indirectly the PML (N) may succeed in tightening the noose against him. The other manouver, by mixing the issue
of article 6 at the same time may bring about the idea of mid term elections, and mr Altaf Hussain has said vocally that if local govts., are dissolved and no new elections called then assemblies should also be dissolved.

It seems that these theories maynot be so unfounded after all. Mr Zardari seems aware of this also.He maybe more dexterous in handling this than we think.

The issue of local government should be looked in the context of good governance and devolution of power to the grass root level only. All modern cities, especially megacities like Karachi cannot be even run for a single month if the local govt., system is abolished. The 18 towns that are bursting with people will be cut down to three or four, the mayor will be the sole authority. It will be simply unmanageable in all affairs. As it is the city district govt., has so far only worked on infrastructure and needed to improve transport, solid waste management, education and health on an urgent priority basis.
If the big political parties call for elections for local govt., and on a party basis , instead of appointing administrators and changing or maybe in Punjab, abrogating the whole system altogether, they will be doing themselves a favor. It is high time that people of Pakistan are given their true legitimate share in governence instead of a dust in the eyes by vested interests, tribals and fuedals.

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