LAHORE: Provinces are bound to undertake decentralisation process and devolve powers at the structural, administrative and fiscal levels, speakers at a press conference said on Sunday.
The press conference, titled Local governance- pending by the provinces for devolution of powers to districts, was held by the Rural Development Policy Institute (RDPI) at the Lahore Press Club.
They said none of the provincial governments had so far evolved any legal framework to devolve the administrative, political and fiscal authority from provinces to districts as enshrined in Article 140-A (1) of the Constitution.
Khaliq Shah, the RDPI coordinator on local governance, said that holding local government elections was just one component of the provincial government’s constitutional responsibility.
He said that local government elections would fail to deliver the dividends of the 18th Amendment in the absence of the much-needed legal framework the provinces were supposed to develop.
He pointed out that the Supreme Court had ordered the provinces to submit their schedules for local government election by April 30.
“We welcome the Supreme Court step and remind the major political parties of their historic commitment made under the Charter of Democracy to hold party-based local elections within six months,” he said. He requested the apex court to review the 26 petitions pending with the four High Courts in this regard. RDPI Principal Coordinator Abdul Shakoor said that the local government elections were due since 2009, but the provincial governments had wasted four years.
“After the passage of the 18th Amendment, local governance is now a provincial subject, however, none of the provincial governments has even announced a schedule to hold the elections,” he said.
Calling it a matter of great concern, he regretted that the provinces “still wanted to continue violating the Constitution by not obeying the Supreme Court orders”.
He said the Sindh and Balochistan governments had told the Supreme Court that it was not conducive to hold local government elections due to the law and order situations. The Punjab government, he said, indicated that it might hold elections by August.
“There should be no excuse this time from the provinces to further delay the local government polls, including the excuse of “incomplete” electoral rolls,” Shakoor added.
Bushra Khaliq, the Women in Struggle for Empowerment executive director, was also present. She said the main reason the provinces did not hold local government elections was that the major parties felt threatened that their space and influence might be transferred to their rivals.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 16th, 2012.
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