Aurat Publication & Information Service Foundation
Conference called for constitutional protection to local , Islamabad


Conference called for constitutional protection to local
A national consultation on constitutional protection of  Local Governments  was organized by AAWAZ program consortium partners, namely Strengthening Participatory Organization (SPO), Aurat Foundation, Sungi, and South Asia Partnership Pakistan (SAP- PK), on 10th September, 2015, at Margalla hotel.  The dialogue was the continuation of AAWAZ program’s ‘AAWAZ  Utha’ campaign on Local Governments strengthening. 

Apart from civil society members, prominent legislators particularly members of Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reforms attended the  consultation. The parliamentarians spoke and pledged to support the move of a constitutional amendment in the 140-A of the constitutional providing time frame to hold Local Government elections. Legislators regarded the dialogue a timely initiative of the AAWAZ program as the Committee on Election Reforms is likely to submit the recommendations to the National Assembly  on strengthening local governments in Pakistan. Prominent of the parliamentarians included Senator Mohsin Laghari, Independent, Senator Farhat Ullah Babar, PPPP, Senator Mian Ateeq, MQM, Ms. Naeema Kishwar, MNA-JUI-F, Senator Sitara Ayyaz, ANP,  Ms Maliha Khan, MPA-KP Assembly, Ms Anisa Zeb Tahir Khali, MPA, QWP, KP Assembly, and Dr.  Araish  Kumar, former MNA from minorities.  
The Legislators and members of parliamentarian committee on elections invited detailed recommendations of AAWAZ consortium partners to strengthen Local Governments and representation of the women, minorities and excluded groups. The participants also spoke about the role of provincial governments. The dialogue between parliamentarians and civil society organization concluded with consensus that strengthening Local Governments require both constitutional protections by National Assembly as well as change of mindset of the provincial governments to devolve powers at the local levels through national finance commission.  
Local government system needs constitutional protection to be more effective and efficient in Pakistan because it lost its sustainability due to lack of legal authorization, said Mr. Naseer Memon, Chief Executive SPO, at the opening of consultation. 

Mr Naeem Mirza, Chief Operating Officer, Aurat  Foundation, added that although Article 140-A provides adequate constitutional, political, administrative and economic provisions for holding local government elections by provincial government but unfortunately provincial governments avoid the devolving the power to  local governments and  hence always use delaying tactics to hold  LG  elections, and  thus  obstruct its true soul by making it less authorized at local level while implementation. 
Ms. Naeema Kishwar, MNA-JUI-F, and member Parliamentary Committee on Electoral Reform, said the Committee proposed 145 days for re-election of local government.  The  Committee is  also  working on other  concerns like number of  polling  stations and  proposed  each  polling station  after one  kilometer.  The Committee also  proposed training  of polling agents  and political workers, she further  said.  The sub-committee of the Committee on Electoral Reforms will put these recommendations on National Assembly’s website, and hence the civil society and human rights activists may analyze and further  suggest  recommendations. 

According to 18th amendment, it is the responsibility of the provincial government to play their role in devolving powers to districts through local government system, Mr. Sajid Mansoor Qaisrani, Chief Executive Sungi Development Foundation delineated.
Senator Aneesa,Zaib Tahirkheli, QWP, opinioned  in the consultation while strictly condemning the decision of provincial government not to hold the elections on specific seats directly and also focused that this is against the law to deprive the voters from their right to choose their representatives directly because in this way true representation would not come in front. 

Mr. Zafar ullah Khan, an eminent political activists,  researcher and Chief Executive of Centre for Civic Education,  demanded that local government elections should be held directly on special seats as done in Balochistan and KP and they further added that all political parties and civil societies is condemning this act of provincial government.

Mr. Farhat Ullah Babar, Senator and eminent political leader added that political parties challenged this amendment in court and hoped that court would do justice in this case. He added that devolution of power is mandatory at the moment to serve the interest of common people in Pakistan. Consistence efforts are required to make amendments in the constitution. 

Ms. Maliha Khan, MPA-KP Assembly, lauded that local government system is the basic unit of the democracy and the democratic process would remain incomplete without strengthening the local government system.