PESHAWAR: The extension of the Local Government (LG) System to the tribal region has been welcomed by the area’s politicians, who say the move will help strengthen democratic practices in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata).
The initiative includes amendments in the Frontier Crimes Regulation 1901 and extension of the Political Parties Order 2002.
LG assistant director at the Fata Secretariat, Jahangir Shah, said the government had introduced a municipal committee system for the tribal areas in which people would be able to vote for their committee representatives.
In phase-1 of the implementation phase, municipal committees represented by the local population in 14 urban hubs across Fata’s seven tribal agencies will be made functional, thereby enabling tribesmen to address local problems and issues at grass root levels through their elected committees, empowering them with regard to their immediate needs and ensuring their participation in decision-making. Subsequent to that, more urban areas may also be included in the system.
Shah explained that municipal committee members will be elected on a ward basis, in which each ward will elect a member to represent its area and people. The elected members will then nominate a chairman and deputy chairman for the committee. He said 25% of the seats will be reserved for minorities and women. It will be mandatory for the committee to call a meeting once a month.
“The age limit for members will be 21 years, and everyone above the age of 18 will be allowed to vote. Furthermore, the total duration of the committees will be four years during which all decisions will be taken in a democratic manner,” he said.
Leaders of political parties in Bajaur had mixed reactions regarding implementation of the LG system, but maintained the initiative will help introduce and strengthen democratic norms in the tribal areas.
PPP MNA Akhunzada Chattan from Bajaur said with the implementation of this system in Fata, locals will be empowered to manage their civic issues, including problems of sanitation and sewage disposal.
However, Chattan said he did not agree on some points regarding implementation of the system, namely, the fact that the governor would have the authority to remove the chairman and deputy chairman of a committee. Dismissing an elected representative will be in violation of the Constitution, he added. Chattan further demanded the LG system be extended to other parts of Fata instead of limiting it to agencies’ headquarters.
Sayed Bacha, an activist of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q), said the government would solve several civic issues by empowering the locals.
Gul Afzal, Awami National Party’s (ANP) president in Bajaur, said the municipal committee elections should not be limited to major cities and, instead, should be carried out across the tribal areas.
Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Governor Shaukatullah Khan said the tribal people are inherently democratic and this endeavour would bring about a much-needed change in the manner of governance.
“We consider the new system to be a milestone towards initiating democratic reforms in the tribal areas because it will empower the common man and allow him to make important decisions regarding their area’s development,” he added.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 25th, 2013.
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