Representatives of civil society organizations, presented a ‘Citizen’s Charter of Demand’ asking governments to legislate and hold local bodies elections in accordance with the constitution of Pakistan.
AAWAZ UTHAO Local Government Campaign started off with a press conference held by AAWAZ consortium partners at Peshawar Press Club on August 3rd, 2013.
The speakers on the occasion presented a charter of demands on Local Government Legislation to be considered by the provincial governments and Islamabad capital authority.
A list of broad principles and recommendations were highlighted by Arshad Haroon (SPO-Peshawar Regional Head) which included the following points:
Local Government should be considered as the third tier of governance and a constitutional obligation.
There should be no urban-rural divide in the application of local governments. Village and Union councils should be considered primary tiers whereas Tehsil & District councils should be considered upper tiers.
A minimum of 33% representation for women, 10 % for peasants/labor and 5 % for non-muslims through reservation of seats in all 3 tiers of local governments through party based and constituency based direct elections in a joint electorate.
Local governments should be given fiscal autonomy to run their own affairs including the right to collect taxes.
Establishment of a Local Government Commission under the Chief Minister or its representative to look after government affairs. The commission should have balanced representation from both treasury & opposition from the provincial assembly, as well as, adequate representation of women and minorities. This commission shall have the final authority in matters pertaining to local government.
Allocation of development funds to the elected councils should be made through a transparent, fair and need based criteria. Indicators such as poverty, gender gap, geographic backwardness and development gap. The Provincial Finance Commission may be reviewed and revised under the aforementioned indicators. A minimum of 30% of the district government budget was suggested to be spent on women specific development plans and schemes.
New local government legislation should empower the LGs to develop and execute disaster risk reduction and management plans under the technical guidance and supervision of Provincial Disaster Management Authority. An authority or a department managing disaster related activities should be established at the district level was also proposed. The department may have an institutional link with PDMA, elected local government and civil society organizations.
Citizens should be given access to information on development planning, budgeting, expenditure, engendering, meeting minutes and other matters of governance at the district level and at the lower tiers. An easily accessible institutional mechanism such as the Provincial Commission on Information can make this possible.
LG legislation should make a provision for grievance redressal/complaint management mechanism enabling citizens to hold their elected councils accountable to them and to check discriminatory practices against women, non-muslims, other council members and citizens who do not belong to the local power structures. District Ombudsperson can be an option.
Local Governments should be subject to accountability and transparency under the constitutional and legal framework of the province. District Public Accounts Committee should also be introduced to create a check and balance with a council member of the opposition of repute at its head. Alternate Dispute Resolution should be inserted in the new legislation for facilitating access to justice and social harmony.
After the presentation, a question was raised regarding action against areas which refused women in their respective areas to vote. In response, Mr. ArshadHaroon (SPO) emphasized on the role of media and civil society activists in generating an unfavorable response towards the government which can be pressurized to take action. It was also suggested that Election Commission should cancel elections in an area where women are not allowed to vote. As Local Government Act has legal cover, amendments to include excluded groups was advised to be top priority to ensure balanced representation.
As the press conference adjourned, consortium partners along with other civil society activists staged a demonstration in front of Peshawar Press Club demanding the implementation of Local Government Act.