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Monthly Archive January 2014

People’s Power – “Transferring Power to the People”

“Transferring Power to the people” was the title of a policy seminar conducted by Pakistan Tehrek-E-Insaf (PTI) ahead of General Election 2013 in Islamabad on April 9,2012 where Chairman PTI , Imran Khan explained the party vision of local government. On a number of occasions Mr. Khan has repeatedly stressed: “Gaoon k Logoon ko ap Ekhtiaraat dain”. During his election campaign Mr. Khan promised to transfer the powers to the village level within 90 days of getting in power and that still after 150 days haven’t been transferred yet in practice. Mr. Khan has also accepted his failure to meet his promise because of the incident lead him to a bed rest of over a month.

Following the Party policy, PTI Lead Coalition Govt. In Khyber PakhtunKhaw has successfully managed to pass the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Local Government Bill-2013 with the majority of the provincial assembly earlier this month. However, Opposition parties have opposed the creation of Village/Neighborhood councils and non-Party elections for the same. Referring to the policy seminar and media talks of Mr. Khan one can easily conclude that these 2 are the key components of the “Change” he promised. The “Change” Mr. Khan promised appears in Chapter VII of the said Bill that deals with village and neighborhood councils. Though the whole bill itself is worth discussion however for editorial constraints focus is restricted to the very 1st Tier of the Local Government.

After commencement of LG bill 2013, the Govt is bound to constitute and notify the village and neighborhood councils in all districts of the KPK province within 60 days followed by an election of Village & neighborhood councils having reserved seats for women, non-Muslims, Peasant and youth in addition general seats.

Contrary to the usual practice, a Village/neighborhood council will be elected through “Open List” non-Party based election. Among the councilors, elected on general seats, one securing the highest votes in his village/neighborhood will only stand eligible for the Executive authority of the council to be titled as Nazim and the second highest vote collector will serve the council as Naib Nazim. Change starts here where the lowest possible unit of the population has elected their own representatives (10-15) living in their walking reach. Under article 29 (a) of this bill, a Village/neighborhood council is responsible for “Monitor & Supervise” the performance of all the government offices including education, health, Police, agriculture, livestock, revenue and hold them accountable by making inquiries and reports to the upstream local or provincial administration. This is the concept “Transferring Power to the People” where people of a village have direct authority to monitor the lowest service point of govt institutions. I believe all the departments like health, Police, Agriculture, Livestock will not fall under the jurisdiction of each village, however, those falling under the jurisdiction of a village council will be monitored by the concerned village council for their performance and service efficiency.

In addition to monitoring role of these basic daily life public services, village councils are also authorized for “Out of Court” amicable settlement of disputes, register of births, deaths & marriages, previously with UC, Monitoring and maintenance of village level public health & infrastructure works, maintenance of collective usage properties and community centers, to identify development needs in the respective council, Organize cattle fair, agricultural markets, sports, cultural & recreational activities, to report cases of handicapped, destitute and extreme poverty cases to the district govt.

All these responsibilities are given to the community if performed effectively, will definitely lead to an active and effective community development. The Nazim of a council is responsible for preparing and submitting quarterly performance reports of the govt offices located in his jurisdiction to tehsil and district government for appropriate actions. In regard to quarterly reporting mechanism, it would have been more effective if Tehsil and district govt arrange the 2 or 3-day reporting session giving due time to each Nazim to present his report in the presence of all Nazims of the concerned tehsil, media, and public in open invitation. This reporting mechanism will put more pressure on govt departments to deliver quality service and will give an impression of improvement and change in the system to the public at large. In this kind of reporting session, all the Nazim will also have an opportunity to exchange the important steps taken in their jurisdiction to improve the system. Exchange of gross root governance strategies will speed up the change process as well.

Elected village councils still have another very impressive aspect, conducting gross root level survey. At any time on directions of tehsil and district got a village council will be the most effective tool to conduct a public survey of any nature in the community. Although not mentioned in the bill, and rightly so, the govt should use the village council to conduct a general survey for each council for local formal & technical education, poverty, general employment source, gender proportionality, diseases, public infrastructure availability and needs, drinking quality and sanitation efficiency, local crops & crafts type and production level, property ownership and tax data and many others. Such data bank at each council level will help govt to form a need-based effective development strategy on priority requirement basis. KPK IT ministry in collaboration with the LG &RD Ministry may develop a central data bank being fed by each council as is recently done for online budgeting system. Databank updated annually will help for real time data analysis for strategy formation and performance evaluation of any project.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Local Government Bill-2013 still has a variety of revolutionary provisions in other chapters however not discussed in this writing. This bill coupled with KPK Right to Information Bill 2013 and Proposed (approval expected) Ehtasab bill 2013 will ensure the transparency never witnessed before in the country.