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Significance of local government and elections


Mohammad Zia-ul-haq, a four star general; and Rt. General Pervaiz
Musharaf, promulgated commissionerate system 1979 and Devolution of power plan 2001 (DoPP) respectively. Both systems were uniformly applicable in all provinces. These systems introduced local governments which were the grassroot level government within a limited territorial jurisdiction. It had two main objectives:
Development at grassroot level and making political nurseries which educated youth about national politics.
Martial law administrators were always interested in introducing local government because they wanted to legitimize their role by showing that they were
working for the masses. In essence, the Army sought to use its old strategy of ‘Divide and rule’ by creating a new and competitive class of ‘collaborative’ local level politicians. On the contrary, Pakistan’s elected democratic governments did not focus on local government due to power distribution, divided financial authority, and compromised hegemony of MNAs and MPAs. They were and still are reluctant to share powers at a
lower level. Their political unwillingness remained the cause of immature democracy. In the commissionerate system 1979, Deputy commissioner (DC) was the head of
District (Zila). He exercised executive powers in the revenue department, and also practiced the power of judicial magistrate. Whereas, in Devolution power plan 2001, DC was removed as the head of District; the powers of Judicial magistrate were also stripped from him. Keeping in mind that the executive and judiciary were (and still are) two different organs of government combining them in one person or organ can affect the scheme of things in the constitution. Intriguingly, General PervaizMusharaf devolved 11 different departments from provincial government to local government, in the supervision of DC following the articles 140A (2) and 219(d) of constitution of Pakistan prior to the 18th amendment. DC was then known as District coordination officer (DCO) with the executive control on 12 departments till 2009.
In Asif Ali Zardari’s era the power to form local government was transferred from federal to provincial government. The provincial government stripped DC of his powers over 11 departments which were devolved by PervaizMusharaf through DoPP 2001, who took all the powers back at their hands. Each province now has its own local government enabling legislation and ministries responsible for implementation.
According to the report of Election commission of Pakistan (ECP) on local government elections 2015, the local government of 2001 completed its 4 years tenure and elections took place in 2005. After 10 years the elections were again held on the directions of the Apex court. It again completed its tenure in 2019 and the next election still awaits which is the constitutional responsibility of ECP and the mandate is given to them in the light of article 140A of constitution of Pakistan 1973.
Local government serves as a basic pillar of democracy which can improve the representation of masses at the grassroot level; devolve power and authority; promote good governance, and contribute towards socio economic development. It also serves as a harbinger of civic sense and awareness resulting in producing leadership at local level. Moreover, it assists in eliminating barriers and reducing distance, assisting the masses in participative decision making at their doorstep.