July 5, 2022

Effective Local Government system is inevitable for the national development / Khurram Jamal Shahid

Khurram Jamal Shahid

The basic definition of democracy is “the government of the people, for the people and by the people”. In the current situation, it is possible only through empowerment of common mantoinclude them in the government. Unfortunately, 75 years have been passed since the independence, but so far democracy has been limited to the politics of some influential families. So far, instead of empowering the common man, obstacles have been put in the way of common men to be part of democratic system. The only solution is to include the people as part of the democratic systemby restoration of the local government system. The local government system is the foundation of every country’s administrative structure and an important pillar of democracy. An active and efficient local government system is the guarantor of national development. Due to the efficient functioning of the local government system in most of the countries of the world, local bodies have played a very important role in the development of those countries. While in those countries where this system does not exist or is not functioning, the local people are suffering from various problems and those countries are declining.

In the local government system, there is a transfer of power and administrative matters to the lower level, which, according to the definition of democratic supremacy, makes the local people part of the administrative affairs and communal development approach. The people can be empowered through devolution, administrative matters and the transfer of development funds to the lower (local) level. In this case, local administrations can find better solutions to solve local problems within their limited resources. However, with limited resources (funds) based on a participatory development approach, better regional development is possible. At present, the Annual Development Plan and MLA Funds are allocated on political grounds, while these funds are used for political purposes only. Often these funds are used to buy votes or reward political workers instead of investing in development. There is need to allocate these funds on a non-political basis in the basis of local people’s problems and available resources. There should be a comprehensive approach. Each year, members of the regional local body or committee should consult with the public and identify problems. The proposal for the solution of the most important and basic need or problem should be addressed, and the members of the Assembly should allocate the annual development plan / MLA fund. In addition, when this process is implemented at the grassroots level, the common people get better political training from here and they can play their role in the development of the country by becoming a part of further politics. When a member of a Union Council or District Council is well trained, he or she can become a member of the Assembly / Parliament in the future and can utilize his or her potential for national development.

In the current situation, due to the absence or inactivity of the local body system, the members of the Assembly are engaged in the street politics, politics forwater taps, petty schemes, transfers,job appointments, police station and court matters of their political workers. This is causing the failure to fulfill their main responsibility “constitutional amendments, development budget management, policy making and its effective implementation”. Because of the existence of the poorly educated members inthe Assembly, they haven’t understanding with the usefulness of the local government system.While they have continued the old traditional exploitative politics due to lack of higher education and legislation capacity / skills. Members of the Assembly should have set up local government to solve local problems so that the burden of street politics would be removed from their heads and they can get enough time for thelegislation.

The local government system provides the people with a system of accountability to the rulers. It makes the rulers accountable to the people. An important function in the local government system is the proper and transparent utilization of funds and its public accountability. Local governments / bodies can be held accountable through transparent spending and audit of funds. While in the current situation these funds are being misappropriated to reward political workers and unfortunately the state local government department has also been a part of this corruption. This misappropriation cannot be stopped until the local government system is implemented and functionalize.

What is the system of local government? When did it start? Why is this system not allowed to flourish? There are often come to the mind of an ordinary political worker but he prefers to remain silent for fear of his personal interest or the resentment of political leaders. (Because in the eyes of political leaders, the local government system is an unforgivable crime.) This system has been in use in the world for many centuries. Incumbent Turkish President TayyipErdogan is well-known in Islamic countries. He was elected Mayor of Istanbul through local elections in the 1990s. While in the subcontinent, local bodies functioned in various forms to some extent from the British rule of 1846. After the separation of Pakistan and India in 1947, all powers would be abolished in the areas of Punjab where this system existed. The members and Chairman of the committees were elected by the people and 37 social welfare works were entrusted to these committees which included social welfare, health, water, sanitation and other infrastructure. Along with them, the committees also had the power to levy taxes on 29 items. This system continued as long as General Ayub Khan remained, but the first democratic government abolished this system for its own benefit. When General Zia-ul-Haq took over the government by imposing martial law, he implemented this system with some changes which was an important and positive step in this direction. After the martyrdom of General Zia-ul-Haq, the democratic governments that were formed again in Pakistan abolished this system. During that decades a number of democratic governments passed but no government was serious about restoring or continuing this system. When General (R) Pervez Musharraf took over the government by imposing Emergence in the country, he introduced this system with further changes. In 2001, local body elections were held under the new Local Government Ordinance and all districts were handed over to the District Coordinator and District Nazim. The district administration was handed over to the District Nazim.

Like Pakistan, Azad Kashmir has had a local government system for a very short period of time, but lack of formal powers. In the rule of General AyubKhan in 1960 and then in 1982 under President General Zia-ul-Haq, Brigadier Hayat Khan introduced the local government system in AJ&K. Local elections were held here again in 1986 and 1991 on non-partisan basis; although these bodies were not functional due to less powers and roles.During the PPP government in 1996 Barrister Sultan Mehmood Chaudhry terminatedthese institutions under a notification and since then the system has not been restored. For decades the parties Muslim Conference, PPP and PML-Nthat came to power, did not restore the local government system by making false promises and consolations to the people.

There are many benefits of thefunctional and effective local government system; some are mentioned above and we will discuss it further. Every year our development budget is wasted due to non-spending, or development work is only to the extent of office files that will be visible on the ground. Under this system, the people of each area will be aware of the budget allocated for that area and will also be able to keep track of the expenditure of that budget. The job of the members of the Assembly is legislation; and develop national level policies; but due to lack of this system these members are engaged in street politics. In the presence of the functional system, they will be able to focus on their real work and thus formulate good policies at the national level and the region will be on the path of development. Since local government system is in fact the nursery of mature politics,and this system will provide professional and capable local leadership. Since first any member will give his policies at the local level and with the passage of time, they will get exposure the legislation and policy making.If such members are available, can participate in the general assembly elections, while public can vote for them keeping in view their previous developmentprogress. If there is a local government system, the people will realize the importance and power of their vote and the people will gladly exercise this right.

Twenty-five years have passed since the end of the local government system in the State of Azad Jammu & Kashmir. The so-called democratic rulers are engaged in a power struggle by making false promises to the public. In our country, the military rulers have restored the local government system and held local body elections; but sadly our so called democratic governments always created hurdle to establish this system. In the current government of PakistanTehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Prime Minister Sardar Abdul QayyumNiazi and President Barrister Sultan Mehmood Chaudhry have given 6-12 months schedule to hold local body elections and have formed a committee headed by Local Government Minister Khawaja Farooq. We hope that Barrister Sultan Mehmood will not commit atrocities against the people this time as he done in the past during 1996. He can improve his reputation and credibility among the public by restoring this system. In this regard, civil society, social, political workers, journalists and lawyers should play their role in reviving the local government system.

 “Khurram Jamal Shahid”

Khurram Jamal Shahid is a writer and researcher; and has written research papers on social issues, provision of social services to the people and development. He has written mostly articles on development, social issues and tourism. He writes contentsfor the social media, blogs and other websites while he is the editor of tourism blog (website) “www.taubat.com”.

Khurram Jamal Shahid is a well-known social worker from Neelum Valley, Azad Jammu and Kashmir. He is a post graduate in Business Management (MBA-Finance). He founded the Social Institution “Sustainable DevelopmentOrganization (SDO)” in 2009 to empower vulnerable people and improve their lives. As the Chief Executive Officer of the organization since 2009, he has been active in improving the lives of thousands of people. He has been a human rights activist, and has been part of various human rights movements in Pakistan. He founded the Child Rights Movement in Azad Jammu and Kashmir in 2013 for children’s rights. Services have been provided in various sectors (education, health, livelihood, energy, water, environment and rights) to empower people. Khurram Jamal Shahid is a young politician and has been raising his voice for public rights on every platform and has always played a positive role in resolving public issues. He has contested in the 2021 Azad Jammu and Kashmir Legislative Assembly elections as an Independent Candidate. As a social and political activist, he has always played a role in organizing the youth and fighting for people’s rights. In this regard, he established the founding members of “Kashmir Youth Council” and “Neelum Youth Forum” and today these forums are engaged in the struggle for civil rights.

He can be reached at

khurram@sdo.org.pk

https://facebook.com/KhurramAJK

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