WHILE the process of transfer of power has started, it is heartening to note that Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and its ally Pakistan Muslim League (Q) have decided to introduce a new Local Government (LG) system in Punjab province. Indeed the LG system already existed in the country’s most populous province but the fact of the matter is that it was not necessarily empowered to deliver to expectations of the masses.
In fact it was on the orders of the Supreme Court that the LG elections were conducted in 2015 yet local representatives were not given necessary administrative and financial powers to address problems of the people. This was the reason that until general election, people were seen knocking at the doors of MNAs to get their problems addressed. It was not only in Punjab but also in Sindh that one saw the provincial government and Mayor Karachi wrangling over their powers. Hence, there is a need to introduce a genuine LG system in all the provinces while clearly demarcating powers of the provincial and the local governments. Those sitting in the national and provincial assemblies should not view local governments as a burden and a threat. The parliamentarians should focus primarily on legislation while that of development be delegated to the local governments.
If the local representation is to have any real meaning in contributing to the life of citizens, it needs to have the resources and authority to address the provision of services and challenges of development. This requires a change of heart by provincial governments towards their respective local governments in the spirit of the 18th Amendment. Secondly, synergy between bureaucracy and local representatives is a prerequisite for a meaningful solution to local problems. Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals set by the United Nations is also closely linked to the integrity of local governance. It will be impossible to achieve the goals without considering the future of devolution of power to the people. So we expect that the new federal and provincial governments will take immediate steps towards strengthening of LG system to achieve development goals.