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Community empowerment and Participation: A missing link in local government system of KP

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Democracy with all its ingredients like free and fair election, participation, political liberty, and public debate are both intrinsically and instrumentally essential. Democracy is helpful for inclusion of marginalized group in decision making process and making them part of development process. Though democracy it every tier is essential, but it is the democracy at local level which ensure empowerment and participation of local people. Development is the capability to function, capability to freedom of choice, capability to agency role and capability to self esteem. The example of being are being literate, being well fed, being healthy, being able to take part in community in life.

In new local governance model, along with elected official, civil society and community organizations are integrated into one framework. Participation of local people in local governance is very beneficial for both community and local institutions. There are four mechanism for meaningful empowerment: access to information, role in accountability, inclusion and participation and capacity building of local organization. Localization of development and governance is one of the important components of sustainable development goals (SDGs) regime/framework where local governance, community empowerment, and community participation are integral parts.

In Pakistan, local government system of 1959 and 1979 were not truly empowered system as most of the resources and service delivery department were either I control of provincial or federal government. After assuming powers in 1999, General Pervaiz Musharaf introduced his seven point agenda. One of the agenda was devolution of powers and for the purpose National Reconstruction Bureau was established for revamping the administrative system of Pakistan. According to NRB, aims were decentralization and restructuring of administrative system, creating space for public participation, creating space for civil society and creating an integrated system system for service delivery Govt of Pakistan.

Consequent upon report of NRB, uniform local government systems were established in Pakistan. This was not mere political devolution at local level, but along with political devolution, financial resources and administrative powers were also devolved to local level. Districts were made powerful, 17 departments were devolved along with financial and administration. Tehsil tier headed by elected Tehsil Nazim was mandated with municipal services. Union Council was the lowest tier consisting of Nazim, Naib azim, general councilors, kissan, women and minority council. Marginalized groups like peasants, workers, minorities and women were given representation. Provisions were made for community participation in shape of CCBOs and CSOs, School Management Committees, Public Safety Commissions, Informal system of justice like family and reconciliation courts, Insaaf Committees and Musalihat Anjuman (Alternative Dispute Resolution Committees). 2013 KP local government system was almost replica of 2001 devolution plan as same service delivery departments along with resources were devolved at local level.

Devolution plan and consequent elections were good step political empowerment, participation and better service delivery. Powers were devolved at local level to the elected officials, however, empowering local elected officials is one step, next level is how to empower the local community as ultimate aim of development is to devolve governance and development related powers to the local level. There were many mechanisms like participation in developmental activities, access to information, strengthening community organization etc. however, in pratcie, People participation and community involvement was lacking. People were not involved in development process, service delivery and decision making. This is evident both at policy level and in practice. People are not part of governance but rather mere bystanders. Though CCBO was there but was not materialized and facilitated and LGA 2013 completely ignored it. Participatory budgeting and community consultation in formulation of budgeting is another important step in this respect. There is no such arrangement either in law nor in practice.

Community involvement in execution of development project is very essential. There are many instances where community involvement has produced good results. One such is community driven local development (CDLD) which is implemented through European Union. Quality of work is excellent, rates are low, and satisfactory level of community is very high when compared to the rates of projects implemented by the government department through contract system. similarly community participation in shape of Parent Teachers Councils(PTCs) in government schools have produced wonderful result in term of provision of missing facilities where quality projects have been executed with minimum cost. Similar kind of intervention were needed in local government system where smaller projects should have been executed through community organization. This lack of community participation in developmental is evident in quality of developmental works.

Public or community accountability is more appropriate at community level as local government institutions are more closer to the people and hence more accessible for people. Civil societies are given roles and integrated with local government system. People are organized through community organization and ample space is provided for participation. However, Representative institutions are weak, people lack motivation for civic and political activism. There is no formal provision for community involvement in Local government institutions. They don’t have any say in budget making, policy making or policy implementations. In absence of formal mechanism, there is an informal system in our society. Society in KP is very integrated and there are strong social bonds. LG members are supposed to participate in marriages, jirga, funerals, and other social gatherings where people have easy access to them. There is string of informal mechanism which govern the relation between elites and non elites. People have easy access to parliamentarian, LG members and even government officials. Though society is more integrated, LG members are more accessible to people, but LG members are hold accountable as per preference of local people. Local people are more interested that LG members should attend in funerals, marriages jirgas and should help them out in thana, kachari etc. Improving service delivery is not a priority per se.

People accessibility varies from tier to tier. District tier is more empowered for service delivery but at same it not that much accessible. District and Tehsil Nazim, Naib Nazim have more areas to administered and more issues to attend to and hence less available for common people. On other hand Union councils and VCs/NCs are more closer to the people and hence more accessible and more accountable. LGA 2013 has further narrowed down the geographical areas of UC to village level and hence more representation for peoples. Most elected councilors were known to people, and their proximity also increased access. However, village council as such were not empowered to deal with health and education. These subjects were devolved in both LG system these were domain of district tiers. UC or VC/NC were not empowered to dealt with budget making or personnel management. They were not given even any monetary role in this respect.

Women empowerment and participation in public, social and political life is one of the important challenges in Pakistan and KP and therefore it was one of the integral part of LGO 2001 and LGA 2013 where 33 percent of share in each tiers of government was reserved for women. Women were directly elected at UC, VC and NC level while rest of them were nominated for Tehsil and district tier. This was good development and a larger number of women were elected in different tiers of government. However in practice its impact has been minimum as role is constrained by local culture. Even they were ignored in the district councils. Most of the women candidates were not attending meeting of councils and were least interested in debate. Most of them were elected as faceless. In most of the cases even name of women candidates were not mentioned and were reflected as wife, mother and daughter of such and such person. Most of the women nominated were just for the number games. The LG system has not produced real or true women leaders. Those who were elected were did not participate in sessions and debates. This is fact that without other enabling environment, mere quota for women at each tier of government can’t produce the desired results.

In Bangladesh, ample efforts have been made to ensure people participation and specifically the lowers tier Union Parishad(UP) is more inclusive in this respect where multiple avenues are available for both direct and indirect participation. For direct participation, there assemblies of people at each ward level known as Ward Sheva. People participate in open budget sessions and standing committees. Similarly Assemblies of Women are organized at each ward level. Budget are participatory where citizens are engaged in meaningful debate for expenditure on priority basis, two sessions are organized each year.

As corrective steps, people at each village and mulla level should be organized into community organizations like CCBOs and these CCBOs should be mad integral part of local governance system. Civil society organizations should be encouraged and should be provided proper role in LG system. Community organization at each village and mahalla village should be registered and they should be given the role in execution of developmental schemes.
Budget should be more open and before its finalization, at least two open should be made mandatory. This will help in generation of revenues at local level and would help in effective utilization of und.

Accountability mechanism of service delivery department is less effective. Though there are committees at council level but most of them are dysfunctional. These committees should be made more proactive and should have representation of from community and civil society. Similarly at facility level, members of civil society should be made an integral part of management committees.

VCs and NCs are more closer to the people and provide an ideal place for community participation. Most of the development budget should be diverted to this tier and its members be empowered to look after each service delivery department at NC/VC level. This is the ideal place for community engagement and direct participation and hence community organization should registered at village council. Instead of contract system, developmental projects need to be executed through community organizations.
Election of women members at each tier, though a good step, has not produced the required results. Our strong patriarchal system and our culture is till creating hurdles. This evident from the fact in most areas women participation has been nominal. Therefore in addition to women members, dedicated women organizations are needed at each tiers. There should be assembly of women at each NC/VC level with availability of funs and other responsibilities. These women organizations should be provided required facilities and fund to play effective role for rights and awareness of women.

Read more: https://republicpolicy.com/authority-structure-in-pakistan-and-itsimpacts-on-governance-and-development/

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