PESHAWAR: The 2013 Local Government Act passed by the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa [K-P] assembly had been termed by the United Nations Development Programme [UNDP] as a 'significant' milestone in devolving powers to the grass root level.
But three years on from that declaration in 2014, it seems that the provincial government has been steadily clipping wings of the district government.
According to article 140[A] of the constitution of Pakistan, “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.”
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After passing the LG act, termed as a landmark law at the time, K-P held local body elections which saw over 40,000 local representatives voted into power in three tiers including district-Town, Tehsil, and village-neighborhood councils.
Even though the UNDP report had termed K-P law as ‘significant’, it noted that LG laws in all four provinces did not devolve powers of many departments to the local bodies and only provided the latter with “limited autonomy in terms of fiscal management and control over service delivery, revenue, tax and police departments”.
But, in recent months, the provincial government has through a series of amendments to the LG acts, has seemingly further restricted powers of the district governments.
In this regard, the most recent amendment passed by the K_P assembly sees the local government surrender powers of two important departments - Communication and Works [C&W], District Roads and Buildings and Public Health Engineering [PHE] department - to the provincial government.
Interestingly, the amendments were supported by members from both sides of the aisle.
While supporting the amendment, K-P Local Government Minister Inayatullah Khan told the house the other day that contractors were facing problems in getting their money from the local government after completing work on roads damaged from natural calamities in different parts of the province.
“It was necessary to remove C&W from the devolved departments as the finance department was raising objections over releasing funds to the contractors,” Khan explained.
Similarly, objections had raised on another amendment made to the LG Act which empowered the provincial government to use a certain portion of the funds allocated for the Annual Development Program [ADP].
Under the LG Act, 30 per cent of the provincial ADP would be allocated for district ADP in the province’s annual budget and would be released to the LG system on a quarterly basis. District Nazims had expressed their dissatisfaction over these amendments.
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Mohammad Rasool Khan, a member of the Jamaat-e-Islami and a district nazim from Lower Dir, said that district government was not consulted about the amendment which takes back powers of important departments such as C&W and PHE.
“We should have been at least consulted before clipping wings of the district government,” Khan told The Express Tribune, adding that efforts of the provincial government were weakening the LG system rather than strengthening it through the recent amendments.
Commenting on the reason presented by the local government minister on the amendment, the Lower Dir district nazim offered that analogy that if the hand was injured and treatment was possible, then chopping off that hand was incomprehensible.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 14th, 2017.
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