By Taj Nabi Khan
ISLAMABAD, Oct 17 (APP):In strong democratic setups, a viable Local Government (LG) system has always proved a catalyst of change not only in devolution of powers and resources but also in resolving public issues at the grassroots’ level.
Pakistan as federal republic has three tiers of government: national, provincial and local systems of governing structure whereas the ‘LG system’ is guaranteed and protected by Articles 7, 32, 37(i), and 140A of the Constitution of the country.
Thus each province has been given the autonomy for its own local government to enable legislation and hold timely LB elections under the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP).
Likewise, the LG system is further divided into smaller units in its functions, responsibilities and authorities at district level with tiers of ‘Tehsil’ and village council. This system can represent over 200 million people of the country in the best possible manner. The true spirit and essence of democratic norms is incomplete without having functional LG system in the country.
Historically, the evidence of communal living found in Mohenjo-daro and the remains unearthed there make manifestation of the fact that Indus was the only civilization of the world which had well organized system of planned roads, sewerage and even toilets. It means that the local municipal system had been existed even some 3000-4000 years ago in this region.
While emphasizing the important role of LG system in effective governance and devolution of powers and resources in the country, President Dr Arif Alvi during the recently held two-day national conference 2021 of the Local Council Association (LCA) on ‘Local Democracy: Moving Forward’ said, “The Constitution had mentioned the local government system for around 22 times while binding the provinces to set up the system and the state had a role to encourage.”
Talking to APP, President LCA Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chapter and Ex-Nazim Mardan, Himayat Ullah Mayar said, “Under the Article 140A of the Constitution, all the provincial governments were bound to conduct LB elections and hand over political, management and financial powers to the elected local representatives” He said that LG system has vital role in sustainable development, viable democracy, prosperity of the country, effective governance, getting easy access to public, and efficient service delivery. Besides strengthening the democratic institutions, the system also plays the role of a nursery for the emerging leadership, he added.
According to official sources in ECP, it is constitutional responsibility of the commission to hold timely LB elections in the country. In this regard, the commission has called upon the relevant officials of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government for holding meeting on the first phase of LB elections in the province.
Similarly, the commission has also given deadlines to other federating units for finalizing their preparations of the elections. The sources said that delaying of the elections was the violation of the Constitution.
Ex-Tehsil Nazim Batagram, Niaz Muhammad Khan told the news agency that LCA seeks continuity of LG system for sustainable development of the local communities.
He said, “The LG System was the first unit of democracy but strangely over the years it has often been ignored by the democratic governments and supported by the dictatorial regimes.” It was the responsibility of the elected LG representatives to focus on developmental projects and improving infrastructures of the localities while the main job of the elected members of national and provincial assemblies is legislation, he added.
Replying to a question, Himayat Ullah Mayar said that it was mandatory for the provincial governments and ECP to conduct timely LB elections within 120 days after ending the tenure of the LG representatives under the Election Act 2017, Section-219 (Subsection-4).
He said the LCA was formed for local government representation (representing the whole country) to share good practices of the LG system and safeguard rights of the local representatives.
Niaz Muhammad Khan said that most of the developed countries had vibrant LG systems as it is the basic unit of democracy, adding that the local bodies have demonstrated a rapid response to handle even the crisis-like-situation caused by the 2005 earthquake.
He said, “During the two-day conference, the government stakeholders of the incumbent government had highlighted the important role of the LG system in the country and assured the LCA that LB elections would be held in the country till March next year.”