Pakistan is a federal republic whose local government has been temporarily suspended following the expiration of the 17th amendment and the passing of the 18th amendment to the constitution, which transfers responsibility for local government from central to provincial government. Due to the delay in local government elections, the administration of each district is currently headed by an appointed district administrator. The local government system in Pakistan is a three-tier system comprising district (zila), tehsil and union councils.
When this phase of the Good Practice Scheme (GPS) was in its inception, decentralisation in Pakistan was under way, and it was apparent that the local government structures, which were relatively new at the time, needed strengthening. Emphasis was placed on how local government should engage with and respond to the needs of the communities which they represent, and mechanisms for doing this effectively.
During the beginning of the GPS, democracy at the local level in Pakistan was starting to erode at a significant pace. Subsequently the responsibility for local government was moved to the Provinces in January 2009 in line with the Constitution, and councils were dissolved. The removal of local democracy impacted directly on the role and mandate of the councils and on local communities’ ability to contribute to decisions affecting their quality of lives, and access to services as well as local development being significantly reduced, further reinforcing the decision to focus at the Provincial level.
Local government is the first line of defence in the face of environmental disaster. As strategies are developed for assessing the scale of damage and rebuilding Pakistan, it will be local government officials leading the reconstruction of their communities. The UNDP has identified local authorities as the priority for not only rebuilding Pakistan but for developing plans to protect their communities from other potential catastrophes. It is therefore imperative that local governance structures are strengthened to meet these challenges most effectively.
When it was confirmed that Pakistan would be included as one of the six countries in the GPS, there was no national association of local government, but there was a relatively newly established provincial level association in the Punjab, the Local Councils Association of the Punjab (LCAP). It was therefore agreed to focus on the strengthening of the LCAP and to assist them and other newly emerging local councils associations in building their capacity. The Local Government Association of England and Wales (LGA) was identified as the partner and was agreed that the project, titled “Raising the voice of the LCAP” was to focus on transparency and accountability, specifically to:
The project was designed in such a way that it had the caveat to shift direction if there were significant changes at the federal and national level so that LCAP could respond to the political agenda, and as with all GPS projects a scoping visit to Pakistan took place in 2008 which provided the face to face opportunity for officers from the LGA to discuss with the LCAP management and political leadership the nature of the collaboration between the two associations. This was then followed up by a brief visit by LCAP officers and members to the UK in 2009 for a training session and to develop a lobbying and advocacy strategy.
Project activities and achievements
The activities that took place during this project were focused on building the lobbying campaign for the associations. The first, a training session on lobbying and advocacy. The training provided delegates with the opportunity to consider the impact of a strategically focused campaign and advocacy strategy, touching on the questions that they should be asking themselves when in the embryonic stages of developing a campaign and evaluating what their end goal is. Following on from the first training session a strategic campaigning workshop took place in Sri Lanka this workshop. However, this was held for representatives from all four provincial associations, and re-capped on the lessons learnt to date. As well as going one step further by focussing on the nature of leadership.
The last of the activities was a UK awareness raising seminar. As the project was unable to host a dissemination workshop in Pakistan it was decided to invite a selection of those who have been involved in the project from all four provinces and run a seminar/debate in the UK which it provided an opportunity for delegates and organisations, both public and private, and diaspora groups involved in Pakistan and its governance, to discuss freely a way forward and explore how they could assist in raising awareness and understanding of the local government agenda. CLGF used the opportunity of a separate seminar which it organised in Karachi in September 2011 to profile the work of LCAP and the role of a local government association in a provincial system of government.