Scope of Local Governments

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As the constitution defines it

Local Government system will become operative in all the provinces before the end of December. What remains unresolved is the extent of the sphere of this all important tier of governance. In democracies parliamentarians concentrate on policy making and legislation. The local bodies on the other hand look after provision of vital services like education, water, sanitation, public health, housing and waste collection. They also provide recreational facilities, maintain local roads and public libraries. They enforce local laws and undertake legislation for which they have been authorised.

Successive military rulers used local bodies as nurseries to raise collaborators who would then get elected as members of the King’s party. Development funds were put at the disposal of the MNAs and MPAs supporting the establishment. Musharraf tried to strengthen his hold on the Union and District Councils bypassing and weakening the provinces. While more funds were made available to Local Governments, the legislators of the ruling party also continued to receive development funds.

Political parties which came to power after Musharraf declined to hold the Local Government elections fearing that the exercise might give birth to divisions in their parties at the district level. Part of the development funds continued to be provided to the legislators. A major chunk of money was however put at the disposal of chief ministers who spent it on projects supposed to fetch votes in the general elections. The money thus spent created disparities among regions and cities within the provinces.

Article 140A(1) of the constitution requires the devolution of the “political, administrative and financial responsibility and authority” to Local Governments. This alone can make the parliamentarians concentrate on their real job of legislation which continues to suffer on account of frequent breaks in quorum by disinterested deputies. Statements from parliamentarians indicate a reluctance to empower the Local Governments. In case this happens it could turn into a bone of contention between the provincial governments and newly elected Local Government leadership.