Comprehensive Reforms Needed To Strengthen Local Governments In Pakistan

Comprehensive Reforms Needed To Strengthen Local Governments In Pakistan
Dehleez (Pakistan Local Democracy Dialogue) and CPDI Pakistan organized a roundtable of key stakeholders on the “Future of Local Government” in Islamabad to generate ideas and strategies for strengthening local governments in Pakistan.

The event brought together representatives of multiple political parties and was attended by Sher Ali Arbab, MNA (PTI), Senator Anwaar ul Haq Kakar (BAP), Attaullah Tarar, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (PML-N), Sardar Awais Leghari MPA Punjab (PML-N), Ahmed Kundi, MPA KP (PPP),Javed Hanif, MPA Sindh (MQM), Sardar Ramesh Singh Arora, MPA Punjab (PMLN), Fawad Hasan Fawad, former Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister, and Mubashar Javed (former Mayor Lahore Metropolitan Corporation) along with other political leaders, civil society and local government representatives, media analysts, lawyers and civil servants.

The participants agreed that existing constitutional provision for local governments is inadequate, and there is an urgent need for comprehensive constitutional reforms to strengthen local governments.

Representatives from PML-N, PTI, PPP, BAP and MQM agreed upon working together to develop consensus among political parties to guarantee local government functions, tenure, and regular elections.

The participants suggested that LG elections should be held with the general elections and their term should be harmonized with the National and Provincial Assemblies. Article 140-A of the constitution must be expanded as a separate chapter in the constitution.

The speakers termed 18th Amendment as a landmark in our constitutional history but stressed upon the point that it will remain ineffective unless it includes a Provincial Finance Commission and constitutional protections for local governments as the third tier of government.

The participants agreed to form a “Joint Working Group” to draft a consensus charter on LGs. The salient features of the joint statement include agreement on the following: inadequacy of existing constitutional provisions for the local governments; urgent need for constitutional amendments that define tenure, structure, the core functions and responsibilities of the local government by adding a Schedule in the Constitution similar to the Legislative List in the Constitution; constitutional provisions that financially empower the local governments; independent LG civil service in line with the principles of federalism; meaningful inclusion of marginalized groups of the polity, particularly, women, minorities, labourers, peasants, and transgender; direct elections for the seats reserved for women; and 33% of the tickets to the local governments general seats to be reserved for women.

The round table consultation concluded with the consensus that all political parties will proactively engage with key stakeholders in a collaborative spirit to strengthen local governments in Pakistan.