Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf Chairman Imran Khan failed to keep his promise of transferring power to local government (LG) institutions and as a result, disheartened elected councillors are compelled to take to the streets to fight for their rights. Before and during LG elections, PTI leaders, particularly Imran and Chief Minister Pervez Khattak promised to make LG institutions in K-P symbols of maximum power. However, the situation is completely different where elected councillors, whether they are affiliated with opposition parties or belong to PTI and its allies like Jamaat-e-Islami, are thoroughly disappointed with the state of affairs and have threatened to protest.
The existing LG system is being restored according to Article 140 A of the Constitution which states, “Each province shall, by law, establish a local government system and devolve political, administrative and financial responsibility and authority to the elected representatives of the local governments.” The situation, however, is different since the current K-P government has not extended the due rights and authorities to LG institutions. Moreover, since amendments are being made to the K-P LG Act 2013 time and again, uncertainty among those who contested during LG elections prevails.
The Minister for Local Government Inayatullah Khan said LG was in its transition period and like every system will take time to get established. However, his party’s member Advocate Israrullah Khan, who has been leading K-P Local Councils Association since 2009, believed provincial government is just reluctant to allow LG councils to get what former military dictator Pervez Musharraf gifted in the devolution plan. “This is unacceptable and we will start our demonstrations from December 20,” Israrullah said.
Awami National Party member Advocate Saaed Zahir who was elected as district councillor from Nothia-Gulberg ward Peshawar, said, “PTI government made changes in power devolution after it failed during LG polls in all 24 districts.” He said PTI-backed candidates won district nazim offices in only 10 out of 24 districts, therefore, the chief minister reserved absolute power for himself. This also meant district and tehsil development committees were to be headed by deputy commissioners and assistant commissioners respectively. Zahir added since the elected district or tehsil nazims could not be members of these committees, they want to join hands against the government.
Zahir also said, “Without due powers, holding LG elections was nothing but a futile exercise.” He added if elected LG representatives were deprived of their due constitutional rights, they will vacate the offices and resign. “Unless LG institutions are established and restored in their true constitutional spirit, no one can consider us to be democratic,” he emphasised.
During a panel discussion on private television channel earlier this week, former federal minister Qamar Zaman Kaira confirmed that all ruling political forces at the Centre and provinces except Balochistan, were forced to hold LG elections by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. He said politically elected governments never allow sharing of power with LG institutions.
K-P Senior Minister Inayatullah Khan does not deny the involvement of political forces that have been reluctant to establish local governments because they needed power to be concentrated.
Since its emergence into power, PTI government has failed to satisfy people from different professions, who have been witnessed streets agitating over provincial governance. It is time K-P government with PTI central high command reviews its policies towards LG and prevents a futuristic precarious situation for itself.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 7th, 2015.
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