SPO led National conference on constitutional protection of Local Governments under AAWAZ program with consortium partners at Islamabad Hotel on 17th March.The event was widely attended by AAWAZ program citizens of 45 districts of KP and Punjab province, a large number of women and minorities, civil society activities, academics, legislators and political parties.Prominent amongst the political party representatives were HasilBejanjo (NP), BushraGohar (ANP), Nusrat Sahar Abbassi (PML-F), Maliha Ali (PTI) and Choudry Javed Iqbal (PML-N), Yasmeen Lehri (NP) and Senator Mir Kabir Ahmed (NP). Each political party representative explained their party positions on Local Government elections and political perspective of all the provinces was presented. The role of political parties to hold LG elections was emphasized and representatives of the political parties affirmedto support constitutional protection of LGs.
The exampleof successful holding of Local Government elections in Balochistan despite extreme difficulties was presented by NP representative, lauded and referred to as the test case of strongpolitical will by speakers and participants. Senator HasilBejenjo, National Party, underscored key factors of success case of Balochistan LG election. He also pledged that NP being ally of Federal Government would take frontal role in tabling LG constitutional Protection bill as recommended by the National Conference.
Mr. Muhamad Tufail Khan unveiled the event and chaired opening session. Mr. Naseer Memon explained how commoners were deprived of their constitutional and political rights. Mr. Zahid Islam, and Mr. NaeemMiraz, head Aurat Foundation were the key note speakers. They underlined the connection between democracy and Local governments, history of LG in Pakistan and barriers to the constitutional protection of LGs. Other AAWAZ consortium partner organizations representative, SajidQaisrani (Sungi Development Foundation) and Irfan Mufti (SAP-PK) participated in the event.
The AAWAZ Charter of Demand (CoD) presented called for:
1. Recognizing local governments as the ‘primary tier’ of governance through a constitutional amendment.
2. Determining a time frame for constituting local governance (for example, within three months of holding general elections) and make provisions to ensure that this schedule is adhered to.
3. Strengthening the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) and district election commission offices to ensure smooth and impartial organization of elections.
4. Ensuring representation of women and excluded groups in local government by amending Article 32 of the Constitution accordingly.
Similarly, the provincial governments are urged to take the following actions:
5. Facilitating the ECP to carry out delimitation of constituencies (in case of Punjab) as soon as possible, or, in case of KP, hold local government elections as soon as possible given that delimitation has taken place.
6. Empowering local Governments through enactment of subordinate legislation to clearly define their functions.