Devolution to Lowest Level Spirit Of 18th Amendment
On the second day of the national conference on 18th constitutional amendment Mr. Zafarullah Khan, speaking on devolution of powers to provinces, described one unit and the principle of parity as cruel constitutional jokes for which the country had paid dearly. He said the 18th amendment has transferred powers but the phase of transformation is underway. He said that it was wrong to say that provinces were not ready to handle new responsibilities. This transition must be facilitated through creating a federal culture, reforming parties and strengthening provincial civil services. He said that only those projects should be undertaken at federal level which is supported by more than one province. He said that despite difficulties and predictions of doom a new Pakistan was in the making.
Mr. Akbar Nasir Khan of UNDP speaking on federalism in the wake of 18th amendment said the country was undergoing for transition from centralism to provincialism and from military rule to civil rule. This would need great care and caution to make the two transitions proceed on course.
Prof. Dr. Naheed Anjum of the Balochistan University speaking on the impact of the 18th amendment said that the Aghaz programme for Balochistan was not making much progress as was expected. She advocated dialogue with stakeholders in Balochistan. She said 18th amendment was an attempt at resolution of the problems faced by the provinces.
Prof. Razia Musrarrat from Islamic University, Bahawalpur speaking on creation of new provinces under the 18th amendment said that creation of new provinces would strengthen the federation. But, this could only be done with consent of the units. She said the Hazara province on the basis of Hindko language cannot be created as the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa leadership would not accept that. Similarly Sindhis would not accept ethno-linguistic division of the province. In Punjab where Bahawalpur claims provincial status on the basis of the promise that after dissolution of the one unit its former status would be restored could substitute the demand for separate province which was ethnic based. She proposed the creation of a Lahore and Multan provinces on the basis of economic and administrative viability.
Syed Hussain Shaheed Soherwordy of Peshawar University speaking on adverse implications of creation of new provinces said the provinces could not be created on economic or administrative viability as ethnicity and language were strong forces of provincial integration. Renaming of KPK illustrated that reality. But separatists’ demand is based on lack of good governance. He said that re-naming a province on ethnic basis, i.e. KPK was a big blunder, as it would inspire similar aspirations in other parts of the country. He said people needed easy availability of atta, ghee and pulses, not new provinces. He said good governance would dilute the demand for new provinces.
Dr. Tariq Rahman who was chairing the session said that ethnicity cannot be dismissed. New provinces are demanded to secure power and justice and equitable share in resources. As long as new provinces stay in the federation there can be nothing wrong with creating new provinces.
Barrister Shahid Hamid speaking on the structure of local government said that local government have not been allowed to work which is one factor behind the gross mismanagement of resources and poor implementation of development projects. In structuring a local government system the principle of devolving to the lowest level must be followed. A primary school must be governed by a local council. He criticized the local government system introduce by General Zia as its aim was to strengthen the centre. Musharraf’s devolution process to local bodies was also flawed due to lack of coordination with higher governance tiers. He opposed non-party based elections for local bodies as they introduced polarization and promoted elite control over governance. He asked provinces to devise a new structure for local bodies in the light of the 18th amendment.
Prof. Zafar Moeen Nasir of PIDE speaking on devolution of resources to local governments said that creation of Pakistan has brought no change in the life of the people living away from the centres of power. He said only an effective local bodies system can bring change in the lives of the poor people living in far flung rural and backward areas. Even the present democratic system has not taken any advantages to the rural backyard of the country. What is needed is local participation in development planning. He emphasized the need for innovation in service delivery.
In his concluding address Mr Shahid Hamid called the 18th amendment a historic achievement reached with national consensus. It has not only strengthened the federation, the parliament and the Prime Minister but also the people in the realm of their fundamental rights. The transfer of power mechanism through strengthening the CEC has been made more smooth and transparent.
In her concluded remarks Ms. Sarah Holz speaking on behalf of the HSF said that the right to education, fair trial and information was the greatest achievement of the 18th amendment. She said the process of change should be firm but cautious and should not be hurried through. Dr. Nuri acting president IPRI said that the 18th amendment has opened the way for the nation to strengthen the course of democracy. He said IPRI holds such conferences to deliberate on national issues and provide some useful input to policy-makers.