Civil society suggests democratisation of local government system

Karachi: Urban planners, researchers, academia, civil society and human rights activists have proposed to put ethnic harmony on priority while designing the Local Government LG system in Sindh. They suggested to provide representation to poor and down=trodden population in the local bodies.

They were speaking at a consultative meeting of the civil society, on “New LG System”, organised by Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research PILER at PILER Center here on Monday.

The meeting was attended by a selective gathering of leading civil society leaders Arif Hassan of Urban Resource Center; Dr. Kaiser Bengali, renowned researcher and economist; Karamat Ali, Executive Director of PILER; Suleman G Abro of Sindh Agriculture and Forestry Workers Coordinating Organisation SAFWCO; Elahi Bakhsh of Strengthening Participatory Organisation SPO, Zulfiqar Halepoto, Mohammed Yaqub of Takhliq Foundation, Abdul Rahim Moosvi of HANDS, Ms. Mahnaz Rahman of Aurat Foundation and others.

Service delivery is also part of the democracy, but actual purpose of the local governments should be to provide true representation of the every sections of the society. People should be allowed to directly elected their representatives on district, Union Councils.

Arif Hassan, the renowned architect and urban planner said that Karachi has an importance because it is the home to major educational institutes with greater development. He regretted that constituency politics always destroyed the trust of people on the government.

He pointed out that there are major players, who decide about the socio economic development in the society. Transporters, mandi operators, shopkeepers organizations, land mafias are also part of the local system, as these factors have a role in identifying the infrastructure.

There is a visible change in the cities, suburban areas and villages. Institutions are not centralized and nobody knows who is under which department. In fact when population will increase these issues will be surfaced.

“If we see cities in developed countries they are functioning through their local government systems. But here the situation is different because of bureaucratic hurdles. Bureaucracy works from top to bottom, it is not only functioning at top level, we can see its role at bottom too. He said there is no institutional development at the grassroots level.

He said in the West efficient bureaucracy government by rules and regulations is running the local government system, but here bureaucracy is not under any rules and regulations therefore it has become a tool for politicians to rule.

In Karachi, he said the land is the main issue, which is either controlled by military or land grabbers.

Speaking on the occasion Karamat Ali said in the past the LG system in Sindh has been made controversial, otherwise it is a political and social issue.

“Migration, which started in 1947 during the partition, is still going on because of political and economci marginalization in other parts of the country. Feudalism is a main cause of nonavailability of LG system,” he said adding that outsiders can get domiciles and ID cards easily. They even become eligible to contest elections. “In this situation we should think seriously about the status of local people of Sindh.” Now they might have turned into minority in their own province. If the people and politicians ignored this fact it may cause eruption of violence and ethnic riots, he warned.

“If we see back in 1932, Karachi had 90 percent Sindhi speaking population. But now Karachi is the city of nonSindhis. At the time of partition, around 600 schools were teaching in Sindhi language, but all have been closed. Urbanization has changed the culture of all the cities of Sindh, as migration is going on,” Karamat said.

In the start Kaisar Bengali gave a presentation on ‘Combining elements of 1979 &2001 LG Laws’, in which he discussed the proposed LG system with is a mixture of both the systems.

Talking about the valuable suggestions and recommendations, he said ‘not only at Sindh level but even in Islamabad the government meetings never give importance to NGO suggestions.

He pointed out that in Karachi MQM remained in government during the eight years of General Pervaiz Musharraf and it had developed only those areas dominated by specific ethnic people instead of taking the entire city areas equally in terms of development.

Taking about his proposed LG system, he said two parallel tracks are proposed in the law: Divisional administration and District Local administration.

He said earlier he had proposed a local government under which Karachi division to have three districts, Karachi, Malir, LyariKeamari. It was also an alternative proposal that Karachi should be one district but towns should be given greater powers.

Zulfiqar Halepoto said the ethnic composition should be kept in balance while framing LG system. Political parties have exploited people on the grounds for their interests. He said the PPP government faced a tough opposition in interior of Sindh when it introduced Sindh Peoples Local Government Ordinance in 2011 and 2012. But it then introduced the 1979 Local government system, which was actually a colonial system. It was given an impression that people of Sindh was in favour of Commissioner system under the 1979 law, which is totally wrong.

He said the 2001 law of LG was controversial under which Karachi was made a single district which earlier comprised of five districts. But an opposite approach was adopted for Hyderabad, which was divided into four districts. All this was done to provide control of both Hyderabad and Karachi to a particular ethnic party.

He said the present government had invited the civil society to provide recommendations for the new LG law, which is being framed under the orders of Supreme Court of Pakistan. The apex court has given deadline of 15th August to all provinces to make their respective LG laws and pass it through assemblies.

Mahnaz Rehman of Aurat Foundation supported the opinion with specific demands to address the women’s concerns regarding LG system and their participation.

Zulfiqar Shah, Joint Director of PILER in his concluding remarks said in fact civil society representatives cannot introduce alternative LG system. This forum of civil society has to incorporate the suggestions for the framework. Draft of recommendations should be designed and then bring it to public through media briefings.

A committee was formed to finalize the recommendations of the civil society to be submitted to the provincial Sindh government.