Of LG polls and electoral reforms
April 22, 2011
Democracy means a political system in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who can elect people to represent them. It is considered to be the symbol of prosperity. Right from the creation of Pakistan, it remained under large boots of Army instead of democratic ones. These Armed sieges didn’t let Pakistan to prosper in the real sense. If the political parties had been allowed to take roots and consolidate, Pakistan would have become an example for other nations of the world.
Democracy means a political system in which the supreme power lies in a body of citizens who can elect people to represent them. It is considered to be the symbol of prosperity. Right from the creation of Pakistan, it remained under large boots of Army instead of democratic ones. These Armed sieges didn’t let Pakistan to prosper in the real sense. If the political parties had been allowed to take roots and consolidate, Pakistan would have become an example for other nations of the world. Success of parliamentary system of a country is directly linked with the successful local bodies. It serves as the success of the whole democratic system. Local governments solve problems of the common people at the same level. It lessens distances between local people and their elected representatives and strengthens accountability among institutions.
Success of parliamentary system of a country is directly linked with the successful local bodies. It serves as the success of the whole democratic system. Local governments solve problems of the common people at the same level. It lessens distances between local people and their elected representatives and strengthens accountability among institutions.
The commissionerate system of governance that Pakistan first adopted was taken from the English. Former president General Ayub Khan devised basics of democratic system. It was on the level of Union Councils, Tehsil and District levels. Union Council comprised 15 members, including five elected and five unelected members, whereas in the same manner, District and Tehsil level democratic system was devised. Its main aim was to prepare ground to elect the president in Presidential Elections, whereas that system ended completely with the end of Ayub’s regime.
Later on from 1973 till 1977, former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto devised a system which comprised bureaucrats in large number. After a short period of time, once again Army took control of the government. General Zia-ul-Haq restored local bodies system and in 1779, 1983 and 1987 local polls were held under his leadership. In the above said period, all polls were held on non-party basis in which 20 percent seats were allocated to farmers, laborers and cultivators, whereas the system devised at village and city level had prominent difference. Elections were held on Union Councils level in villages and at Town’s level in cities.
After the death of General Zia-ul-Haq in 1988, PPP had completely abandoned the said system after coming into power. PPP and PML(N) came in government one after the other, but they failed to work out a proper plan for local bodies in their eleven years of governing eras. Their failure was always linked with both parties’ different ideologies.
Once again another Army General toppled the regime of Mian Nawaz Sharif in 1999. In August 2010, provinces issued Ordinances collectively to establish local governments in the name of ‘Devolution Of Authority At Grass Root Level’. According to a press release of 15th June 2009, it was stated that the newly-devised system comprised Union Council, Tehsil Council and District Council, in which thirteen members were selected for Union Council, including a Nazim, Naib Nazim, four common men, two women, two farmer men, two farmer women and a minority member. Similar system was made at District level. According to Police Order 2002, all the authorities were shifted to these members. Early education, travel facilities, construction works, livestock were among several problems to be dealt by these members.
This system worked for nine long years besides having some discrepancies. In a column written by International Crisis Group “Pakistan’s Local Polls—And Military Assistance”, Government included districts in local elections used unfair means to elect governmental members in polls held on non-party basis.
As the constitution remained suspended from 12th October 1999 till December 2003, provinces were not given powers to implement law at local governments. National Reconstruction Bureau devised Local Bodies plan at its own without consulting any entity. According to Pakistan’s Constitution, Provinces after having permissions from President can modify local bodies system.
In the beginning of 2010, provinces suspended the authorities of district councils. No other province except Balochistan and Sindh has devised constitutions for local governments, whereas Media also lacks such info. At present, country’s situation is uncertain due to lack of local bodies system. Besides having some inconsistencies, local government system solved problems at the local level.
According to the ground realities, people wait for the parliamentary members for the attestation of CNICs and domiciles. Solutions to the problems including supply of clean drinking water, heath, education, constructive work and progressive plans, roads between villages and cities were evolved by the local governments.
It was due to the local government system that former Nazim Karachi Mustafa Kamal’s stunning performance in solving the problems of the common people made him famous internationally and he was conferred an award for his support.
However, at present, a number of problems are cropping up due to the unavailability of Local Bodies System. In this connection, Provincial Assemblies are also not taking interest, and as a result, once again the parliamentarians, whose main task was to legislate, have been involved in street politics.
In Pakistan, the role of Media in the establishment of Local Bodies System has remained questionable as till now; the reporting regarding Local Bodies elections cannot be declared satisfactory. It is the sole responsibility of the Media to bring to light the delay in the formation of Local Bodies System.
Presently, a commoner doesn’t know the revised electoral system under the 18th Amendment, therefore, there is a dire need to commence awareness campaign in this regard. And unfortunately our Media remained focused on the performance of the Local Bodies System under various regimes, rather than talking about the significance and need of the establishment of local governments. The media icons should play their due role in highlighting the importance LGs, and also on delay in their establishment.
According to the 18th Amendment, by revising 97 sections, the Constitution has been restored to its original form. On 25 March, 2010, a Parliamentary Committee comprising 26 members from both houses (Senate & National Assembly) was formed under the chairmanship of Senator Mian Raza Rabbani. Although in Pakistan, where ethnic and sectarian divides have remained pronounced, it is a great achievement by the elected government to pass the 18th Amendment. The Constitutional Committee approved these amendments after conducting 77 in-camera meetings.
The 18th Amendment has great impact over the electoral process, under which the appointments of Chief Election Commissioner (CEC) and Election Commissioner were made. The Article 213 of the Constitution has ended the power of the President of Pakistan to appoint the CEC. Now the Prime Minister of Pakistan and Opposition Leader in the Lower House (National Assembly) will send the names to the Parliamentary Committee, comprising 50% members from opposition party in the Lower House and 50% from government. Further more, the duration of CEC’s tenure has been fixed up to 5 years.
The Article140 of the Constitution explains that the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) would organize the Local Bodies elections. If a candidate has committed some crime and punished by the verdict of the court, he/she would be eligible to contest election after 5 years of the completion of punishment. The condition of ineligibility has been removed due to corruption under LFO during Musharraf era. Reforms have also been made to end ‘Lotacracy’ (floor-crossing).