Pakistan local government: a partner in national development
17 January 2019
As an important local government conference came to a close this week in Islamabad, a range of recommendations have been made to inform the way forward. Organised by CLGF and the Local Councils Association of the Punjab, the event was part of an EU funded project to strengthen the four local councils associations in Punjab, Sindh, Baluchistan, and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as well as the ADLG - the national umbrella body in Pakistan. To read the full meeting outcome statement click here.
Strengthening local government
Representatives of local councils associations, the ADLG, Federal and Provincial ministers, Members of Parliament, senior officials from local and central government and representatives from civil society and development organisations, had come together to discuss the role of local government as a partner in development, including in the achievement of the SDGs; and strategies to strengthen local government and LCAs in Pakistan.
Bridging gap between government and citizens
It was agreed that, as part of the state, local government’s core responsibilities underpin national development and achievement of the SDGs, through its role in citizen engagement, planning and service delivery. Local government bridges the gap between government and citizens, bringing them together to ensure that development leaves no-one behind. It was emphasised that political commitment to decentralisation and adherence to constitutional provisions for local government set out in article 140 (a) must be accompanied by an adequate level of autonomy, capacity development and financial resources to ensure that local government and communities are genuinely empowered.
In a wide-ranging discussion, participants agreed priorities for enhancing local government’s role as actors in development. The outcomes endorse and build on recommendations developed by the LCAKP and LCAP based on their experiences of implementing local government, which were presented to the Prime Minister’s Taskforce on Local Government in December 2018.
The importance of enabling legislation
Participants recognised the importance of strengthening enabling legislation that sets out clearly the devolution of political, financial and administrative powers to district and local councils. The process should include clear articulation of services to be delivered locally and empowerment of local government to hire staff. Consideration should be given to establishing different roles and functions between urban and rural local government. Ultimately efforts should be made to move towards a more uniform system of local government across Pakistan.
Legislation should also be in place, in line with the Constitution, to ensure commitment to the principle of devolution to the district level; to ensure regular elections; and that councils can complete their full period in office.
Reserve seats for women and minorities
The recommendations also called for meaningful inclusion of all citizens in participation and decision making processes. Participants discussed the relative merits of retaining or modifying the reserve seats system for women and minorities. It was agreed that the number of women in local government should be increased and that capacity building and targeted resource allocation could empower them to play a full role in local decision making.
At the concluding session the Presidents of the four local councils associations Abid Hussain Lehri – President LCA Baluchistan, Himayullah Mayar – President LCA Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Fozia Khalid Warriach – President LCA Punjab, Syed Kumail Hyder Shah – President LCA Sindh and Pirzada Mian Rajan Sultan – President of ADLG, endorsed the outcomes and they presented them to the chief guests: Mr. Pervaiz Khan Khattak, Federal Minister of Defence and Mr. Makhdum Khisro Bakhtyar, Federal Minister for Planning, Development and Reforms who promised to share these with the Prime Minister of Pakistan.
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