Human Rights commission of Pakistan (HRCP): Proposed Local Government System in Sindh – Combining elements of 1979 & 2001 Ordinances/ Acts

Background

Democratic governance is among one of the major concerns of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan. HRCP believes that an important aspect of democracy is governance at the local level. In Sindh, the issue of local government has caused deep divisions among the stakeholders, particularly in Karachi, Sindh,  and led to the hardening of positions. This issue also demands urgency of settlement as the current arrangement, put in place through an Ordinance, will end on November 11, 2011. HRCP’s recent fact-finding into the causes of violence in Karachi indicated that the primary reason is a war of turf over who controls the city.

In view of the ground conditions, HRCP welcomes the proposal put forward by a group of concerned citizens led by Kaiser Bengali, former advisor to the Sindh Chief Minister. We believe their proposals contain viable recommendations that merits serious attention and should form the basis for further consultation among key stakeholders.

Karachi has been gripped with violence for several years now. Many attempts have been made, including military operations, to stem the violence – to no avail. Peace – rather, the absence of violence – returns, but only temporarily. The attempts at restoring normalcy in Karachi have centred on treating the issues as a law and order problem. Political discussions among stakeholders have been limited to bargaining and power brokering for short-term gains.

Long-standing political issues underlying the violence have seldom been taken up for resolution.

Large scale violence also accompanied MQM’s withdrawal from the government coalition in June 2011 and the PPP’s swift move to replace the Sindh Local Government Ordinance (SLGO) 2001 (as amended in 2005) with SLGO 1979 ; albeit with minor amendments. However, efforts to bring MQM back to the government fold led to the amendment of the 2011 Ordinance; whereby, the provisions of the 2001 Ordinance were restored with respect to Karachi and Hyderabad only . This led to an explosion of protest from the rest of Sindh, which saw the amendment as a step towards the division of the province. Finally, the pre-June 2011 status quo ante was restored . In the process, over 100 precious and innocent lives were lost.

The subject of local government has polarized Sindh, with PPP (and ANP, as well as Sindhi parties) representing one set of views and MQM another. The battle lines are drawn largely around SLGO 1979 (which the PPP, ANP and Sindhi parties support) and SLGO 2001 (which the MQM upholds).

The contest is over control. SLGO 1979 places all powers with provincial government, while SLGO 2001 places effective powers with district governments. SLGO 2001 retains the District Government system under elected Nazims, armed with a broad range of functions and powers; abolishes Divisions and the post of Commissioners; unifies the former Karachi Division under one City District Government, and divides Hyderabad district into smaller districts. By contrast, SLGO 1979 would abolish the District Government system; restore Divisions and the post of Commissioners; and replace the City District Government of Karachi with 5 districts.

The view that basic social services is best delivered by local government is accepted by all and, in this respect, the concept of devolution as enshrined in SLGO 2001 commands broad support. It is, however, also argued that SLGO 2001 effectively undercut the authority of the provincial government and created fiefdoms; thereby, leading to a situation where the writ of the state was being undermined.

The gap between the two positions is wide and there is an urgent imperative to bridge the distance by synthesizing elements of the two SLGOs, such that it is acceptable to all major parties, creates a balance between province and districts, and serves the cause of improved service delivery. This is proposed, herewith, by separating the functions of civil administration and service delivery and creating well defined boundaries between the two. Essentially, it is proposed that while the provincial government retains civil administration functions, local government retains service delivery functions.

Proposed Structure

The proposal presented here broadly aims to combine provisions of SLGO 1979 relating to Revenue and Law & Order with provisions of SLGO 2001 relating to service delivery functions. The new law may be titled Sindh Local Government Act 2011.

Two parallel tracks are proposed: 1. District Administration (DA)

2. District Local Administration (DLA)

Track 1 is the Divisional Administration, responsible to the Provincial Government. It stipulates the restoration of the Divisional tier, headed by Commissioners, with Districts headed by Deputy Commissioners, as per SLGO 1979.

Magisterial powers are proposed to remain as in SLGO 2001 system.

The functions of the Divisional tier are proposed to be:

Revenue (Land Administration)

Law & Order

Disaster Management (Emergency Relief), and

Regional Planning & Development

The Taluka tier is proposed to be abolished as it has led to duplication of authority and is considered superfluous. Urban TMAs are proposed to be replaced by the system as under SLGO 1979, as outlined in later sections.

Local Government

Track 1

Divisional Administration (DA)

(Responsible to Provincial Government) Track 2

District Local Administration (DLA)

(Responsible to elected District Council)

Division – Commissioner

District – Deputy Commissioner

Taluka – Abolish

Union Council – Secretary

Functions

Revenue (Land Administration)

Law & Order

Disaster Management (Emergency Relief)

Regional Planning & Development District Nazim – District Council

District Coordination Officer (DCO)

EDOs

Nazim – Union Councils

Functions

Finance & Planning

Works & Services (Roads, Buildings,

Transport & Alternative Energy)

School Education

Health (DHQs, THQs, RHCs & BHUs)

Social Welfare & Community Development

Urban Development

Track 2 is the District Local Administration, responsible to elected District Councils. This tier is proposed to adhere largely to the provisions of SLGO 2001 and is responsible for delivery of social services, including all development and municipal function in this regard. Union Councils are proposed to have the same powers and functions of erstwhile Town Committees and report to the respective Districts, but receive funds directly from the Provincial Government. All Local Government officers are also proposed to be appointed by the provincial government.

The functions of the District Local Administration tier are proposed to be:

Finance & Planning

Works & Services (Roads, Buildings, Transport & Alternative Energy)

School Education

Health (DHQs, THQs, RHCs & BHUs)

Social Welfare & Community Development, and

Urban Development

Accordingly, the following District Group of Offices is proposed:

District Group of Offices

Office of the Nazim

Office of District Coordination Officer

Department of Finance & Planning (including Accounts)

Department of Works & Services (Roads, Buildings, Transport & Alternative Energy)

Department of Education (School Education, Special Education, Culture & Sports)

Department of Health (DHQs, THQs, RHCs, BHUs & Public Health)

Department of Social Welfare and Community Development

Department of Urban Development & Regulation

Structure of urban governance

A mix of SLGO 1979 and 2001 is proposed. City District Administrations are proposed for Karachi and Hyderabad, with Towns therein. Karachi is proposed to have three Districts – Karachi, Lyari-Keamari and Malir; each with their respective City district Administrations and Towns. Hyderabad City District Administration is proposed to cover the present Hyderabad District.

Sukkur, Larkana, Nawabshah and Mirpurkhas and other urban centres with population between 250,000 to 1,000,000 are proposed to have Metropolitan Corporation status, to be called Metropolitan Administrations. All Metropolitan Administrations to comprise Towns, with their own Administrations.

Urban centres with population size 50,000 to 250,000 are proposed to have Municipal Corporation status, to be called Municipal Administrations. Urban centres with population size 100,000 to 250,000 to have Towns therein, with their own Administrations.

Urban centres with population size below 50,000 are proposed to have Town Administrations.

All the entities – City district Administrations, Metropolitan Administration, Municipal Administrations, and Town Administrations are proposed to be headed by Nazims, elected from amongst their respective Councils. 33% of all Councils are proposed to be women, to be elected directly by women voters.

New proposals

1. There are developmental and service provision issues that overlap district boundaries. It is, thus, proposed to create Divisional Planning Boards with the Chief Minister as Chairman and respective Commissioner as Member-Secretary and including Nazims and DCOs of related districts and 5 professional members, as may be prescribed. Divisional Planning Boards shall prepare Regional Development Plans and process and approve schemes above and below a specified amount.

2. A new Division for central Sindh – Shaheed Benazirabad – comprising Shaheed Benazirabad, Naushero Feroze, Sanghar and Dadu districts, and Sehwan taluka, as part of Dadu district is proposed to be created.

3. Capital Town – within the limits of Karachi City District Administration – is proposed to be created, comprising areas that house: Governor House, Chief Minister House, Sindh Assembly, High Court, Supreme Court, Commissioner House & contiguous areas. Capital Town administration is proposed to be appointed by and responsible to provincial Government.

Finances

Distribution of finances to all entities in the districts is proposed to be through Provincial Finance Commission (PFC) Awards.

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