Devolution of Power Plan 2001

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RESEARCH and EVALUATION CJLG May 2013 20 Pakistan’s Devolution of Power Plan 2001: A brief dawn for local democracy? Commonwealth Journal of Local Governance Issue 12: May 2013 http://epress.lib.uts.edu.au/ojs/index.php/cjlg Dr Munawwar Alam Adviser Commonwealth Secretariat United Kingdom Professor Mohammad Abuzar Wajidi Dean, Management & Admin Sciences University of Karachi Pakistan Abstract Local government is not a new concept in Pakistan. Since the founding of the country in 1947 Pakistan has always had local governments as the lowest-tier political structure. However, grassroots democracy has been eclipsed at different times in the country’s history. As we write this article, there is no elected local government in Pakistan. The article documents the recent history of decentralisation with special reference to the Devolution of Power Plan (DOPP) introduced by the military government of General Pervez Musharraf in 2001. The author was closely involved with the DOPP at both policy and implementation levels. The paper also looks at political economy issues relating to decentralization in Pakistan. Introduction The public administration literature provides an enormous number of studies on decentralisation, but research focused on decentralisation in Pakistan within the context of military rule is limited. Some researchers, mostly belonging to international development agencies, have studied different aspects of the Devolution of Power Plan (DOPP) – sectoral, political etc., but these do not comprehensively cover the breadth of the local government reforms of 2001. The main thrust of this article is that the DOPP was not simply another local government system per se, but rather a major attempt at decentralisation accompanied by a comprehensive package of reforms that had several strands – electoral reform, local government structures and processes, and changes to the police and bureaucracy – all aimed at modernisation and social change. Alam and Wajidi Pakistan’s Devolution of Power CJLG May 2013 21 Pakistan’s political history has been characterised by intermittent military rule. Since independence in 1947, there have been four periods of martial law under different dispensations and three constitutions have been enacted (1956, 1962 and 1973). Cumulatively, military governments have ruled for almost half of Pakistan’s existence since 1947. The alternating pattern of political and military governments1 has affected the structure and design of local government systems, and more importantly has had significant implications for the development of grassroots democracy. It has at times strengthened and at other times jeopardised the sustainability of local government in the country. In broad terms, local democracy has been nurtured by military governments whereas during civilian rule it has been replaced by non-participatory, unelected local structures that are run by government-appointed civil servants. Thus as far as local government is concerned, it may be said that the country has experienced both ‘dictatorial democracy’ and ‘democratic dictatorship’. According to Briscoe (2008), the formal state structure in any society may have a parallel or ‘shadow’ set of institutions that hold real power. This is especially true in the case of Pakistan. Every military government in Pakistan has introduced its own brand of local government. Cheema et al (2005) have used the term ‘non-representative governments’ for these military regimes. They have attempted to analyse the Pakistani experience to find answers to the question of why non-representative regimes have been willing proponents of decentralisation to the local level. In developing countries decentralisation may be either externally driven (e.g. through structural adjustment programs, donor pressure etc.) or internally motivated (e.g. by governments seeking to strengthen their legitimacy and gain popularity), though the country context is different in each case. In Pakistan’s case decentralisation has always been internally driven, and Cheema et al (2005) conclude that the military’s need to legitimise its control appears to be a prime reason behind the recurring attempts at local government reform. Bhave and Kingston (2010) view the military in Pakistan as a separate actor with its own interests. It can, however, be argued that institutional ‘interest’ and institutional ‘role’ are two different things, and that the course taken will vary according to the institution’s interpretation of the context in which it has to operate. According to Sivaramakishnan (2000) local government in South Asia often tends to be stronger during eras of authoritarian rule than in times of democratic rule. He suggests that during democratic regimes elected local government is less attractive because it provides an additional platform for citizen participation, and hence may to some degree rival the centre. The patronage of local governments under military regimes is not unique to Pakistan. In many countries military governments have attempted to create grassroots popularity and support, and to secure their legitimacy and a better external (and internal) image by nurturing local governments. In

1 The terms ‘elected and non-elected’ are not used here as military regimes also installed elected governments, albeit of a relatively controlled nature. Within the military, the army typically dominates. Alam and Wajidi Pakistan’s Devolution of Power CJLG May 2013 22 the Commonwealth, there are at least two more instances, Ghana and The Gambia, where army rulers introduced local government reforms. In Ghana, a major change in the governance system was introduced in 1988 by Flight Lieutenant Jerry John Rawlings, the organiser of the fourth coup in the country in 1981. Writing about Ghana, Ahwoi (2010) argues that decentralisation of national administration, particularly in unitary states, works best in the presence of a strong central government. Although Pakistan is a federation, Ahwoi’s thesis seems to apply. The remainder of this article is divided into four sections. The first looks briefly at local government models in Pakistan before 2001 – all creations of military regimes. This is necessary if one is to distinguish the DOPP from previous waves of local government reform. The following sections then explore the DOPP of 2001-09 to examine what was new compared to previous attempts at decentralisation, and analyses some of the social factors evident in the two local government elections (2001 and 2005) which were a hallmark of the DOPP. The final section reviews the experience of the DOPP, looks at the current situation and future prospects, and draws some general conclusions. Local government in Pakistan until 2001 In 1947, on the eve of independence, Pakistan inherited the local government system of colonial India. The British Administration had introduced the concept of ‘local self-government’ by creating a separate tier to administer civic functions, initially through appointed local administrators, and then through elected Municipal and District Boards for urban and rural areas respectively. This system was first introduced in Bengal and Madras, followed by Bombay, Punjab and other colonial states. Separate laws were enacted in each state for large cities, municipal cities and towns, and rural areas (Alam 1999). During the independence movement in India national political parties stood for greater representation at central and provincial levels rather than local government. This prompted the British government to grant autonomy at the provincial level (Cheema et al 2005), and was a major factor in the weak development of local governments in the areas that later became Pakistan (Ali 1980). The history of local government in Pakistan from 1947 to 2001 can be broadly divided into four periods: 1947-1958 1958-1969, the ‘Basic Democracy’ system of General Ayub Khan 1969-1979 1979-1988, the local government system introduced by General Zia-ul-Haq. 1947 – 1958 As explained above, at the time of independence the areas that constituted Pakistan had few developed systems of local government and the local bodies were mostly run by government appointed administrators. The early years of independence were marked by limited constitutional Alam and Wajidi Pakistan’s Devolution of Power CJLG May 2013 23 development and the extreme pressures on limited resources brought about by partition. The partition of India in itself was phenomenal, and perhaps unique in the British Empire, as no other colony was partitioned at the time of granting independence. In Pakistan, migration of millions of Muslims from the Indian states and their settlement was in itself enough for the newly created country to handle, with minimal infrastructure and resources, without trying to focus on other developmental issues such as establishing democratic local government. Around 1956, some progress began towards creating an adult franchise and electing local office bearers, but this was confined mainly to the provinces of Bengal (now Bangladesh) and Punjab. In 1957-58, half the municipal councils in West Pakistan (the present Pakistan) were still managed by government appointed administrators as in most cases elections had not been held after the expiry of their terms of office. Waseem (1994) points out that even where elections were held, there was only a limited franchise and massive malpractice. 1958 – 1969: the Basic Democracy System of General Ayub Khan This was the first period of martial law that brought with it a ‘first wave’ of local government reform. The ‘Basic Democracy’ (BD) system was the first experiment in Pakistan with local government under the auspices of a military regime. Field Martial Ayub Khan introduced a system of ‘controlled democracy’ at all levels of government. Under this system, local government institutions were created in rural and urban areas through separate legislation. All urban and rural councils, as well as provincial and national assemblies, were elected indirectly through an electoral college consisting of 40,000 ‘Basic Democrats’ popularly elected in each of East and West Pakistan. 1969 – 1979 After the imposition of the ‘civilian2 martial law’ under Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in 1971, all local bodies were dissolved and the functions and powers of local governments were vested in official administrators. This state of affairs continued throughout the reign of Mr Bhutto and the early years of the following period of the martial law regime of General Zia-ul-Haq, which began in 1977. By this time, East Pakistan had seceded from Pakistan and West Pakistan had been divided into four separate provinces: Punjab, Sindh, Balochistan and the North West Frontier. According to the 1973 Constitution (still in place), local government is a provincial subject. Thus all four provincial governments enacted their respective local government legislation in 1979. 1979 – 1988: the local government system of General Zia-ul-Haq This period marked the ‘second wave’ of local government reform under a military regime. The system of local government introduced in 1979 by General Zia-ul-Haq was the most representative in nature since independence. For the first time in the history of Pakistan, elections to all local councils

2 ‘Civilian’ martial law because it was imposed by an elected ‘political’ government. Alam and Wajidi Pakistan’s Devolution of Power CJLG May 2013 24 in both rural and urban areas were held simultaneously on the basis of adult franchise and under the aegis of independent provincial election authorities. The special features of the 1979 local government system can be described as follows: Local government laws relating to rural and urban areas were unified and harmonized Representation was given to peasants, workers, women and minorities in pursuance of principles laid down under the 1973 Constitution Elections to local councils were held on non-party basis Local governments had elected officer bearers (chairmen, mayors, etc.) and there were no appointed members Local councils had significant autonomy e.g. could approve their own budgets and taxation proposals. Tables 1 and 2 summarise some of the key features of the three systems of local government introduced under military rule, and the intervening ‘political’ (civilian) governments. Table 1: Local government systems under military rule Period No. of years Military Leader Name of System Distinguishing feature/s 1958-1969 11 General Ayub Khan Basic Democracy National law; local governments comprised both elected and appointed members, and served as an electoral college for the election of the national President. 1979-1988 9 General Zia-ulHaq No specific name Elected local governments under provincial laws; no appointed members; 3-4 successful terms completed under this system. 1999-2008 9 General Pervez Musharraf Devolution of Power Plan Based on the principle of subsidiarity; radical departure from all previous systems; devolution accompanied by taxation, civil service, electoral and police reforms. Table 2: Local government under ‘political’ governments Period Political Situation Remarks 1947 - 1958 No constitution, no elected government in the country Urban Councils and District Boards in urban and rural areas respectively continued according to laws left by the British Government. 1971 - 1976 First elected national/ provincial governments Despite promulgation of a local government law, no elections held throughout this period and local councils were managed through official administrators. 1988 - 1999 Several elected national governments held power All elected local governments dismissed. Local government elections never held though announced and scheduled several times; elections held in certain provinces in 1998, but elected representatives never assumed office. Alam and Wajidi Pakistan’s Devolution of Power CJLG May 2013 25 The Devolution of Power Plan (DOPP): What was new? Although the coup of 1999 was the precipitating cause of devolution, movement towards local government reforms had begun earlier at the behest of international donors and lenders, particularly the World Bank. On the global scene, pressure for decentralisation, especially market-based decentralisation, had already been brought to bear in developing countries as a result of the Structural Adjustment Program of the International Monetary Fund in the 1980s and 1990s. Based on World Bank reports of 1996 and 19983 , Cheema et al (2003) argued that although multilateral pressure for decentralisation in Pakistan had developed since the mid-nineties, no major attempts at decentralisation were initiated in Pakistan before General Musharraf took power in 1999. Therefore it can be said that the coup of 1999 was a turning point for local government reform, and that without the coup the course of decentralisation in Pakistan would have been further delayed. In Pakistan, like many other developing countries, public service delivery was characterised by a concentration of powers in the federal and provincial governments. Most service delivery was therefore under bureaucratic control without any contribution from elected politicians at the local level. This meant that provincial and central governments did the policymaking and district authorities4 acted as the implementation agency with little say in decision-making – a system of deconcentrated administration rather than decentralised authority. To address this situation, General Musharraf established a National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB) as a ‘think tank’ to help transform an over-centralised and ineffective service delivery system into a decentralised and responsive one. After an extensive process of consultation his government introduced its program of devolution of power and authority under the aegis of the NRB in 2001. This began the ‘third wave’ of decentralisation in the country. The Devolution of Power Plan of 2001 (DOPP) was a radical departure as it was based on the concept of subsidiarity, involving transfer of power from provinces to districts and other lower levels. Before the DOPP, subsidiarity was not a commonly used term in developmental discussions and in the corridors of power in Pakistan. The DOPP had two main elements: decentralisation and electoral reforms. Devolution was also accompanied by reforms to the civil service and police. Features introduced for the first time in the history of Pakistan are summarised in Table 3. The following sections provide further detail on some of the key features of the DOPP reforms.

3 World Bank (1996) Supporting Fiscal Decentralization in Pakistan and World Bank (1998) A Framework for Civil Service Reform in Pakistan 4 District authorities are extensions of provincial governments. Alam and Wajidi Pakistan’s Devolution of Power CJLG May 2013 26 Table 3: Innovative features of the Devolution of Power Plan Electoral  Voting age reduced from 21 to 18 years to bring youth into mainstream politics.  Minimum educational qualification prescribed for candidates for Nazims (mayors).  Manifesto mandatory for candidates for District and Town/Taluka Nazims (mayors).  Elections conducted by (central) Election Commission of Pakistan instead of provincial election authorities.  Local government elections held in phases for better management and coordination. Gender  Reserved seats for women increased to 33% in all tiers of local government. General  Divisional tier (between districts and provincial government) abolished.  Office of the Deputy Commissioner (a colonial legacy of de-concentrated administration) abolished and replaced by senior District Coordination Officer (DCO) reporting to Nazim (mayor); interaction of DCO with provincial government through mayor.  Magistracy abolished; in Pakistan’s context this was very important, as provincial governments extended their reach through district officers who also had judicial powers that could be exploited through the district bureaucracy.  Mayor made chief executive of the respective local government with wide ranging administrative and financial powers.  Elaborate mechanism for internal and external recall of elected representatives prescribed under law; similarly, officials enabled to seek recourse against motivated or illegal orders of Nazims (mayors). Finance  Provincial Finance Commission constituted for allocation of resources from provinces to districts, based on population, fiscal capacity, fiscal effort and specific needs etc. of districts. Police  Police Act 1861 replaced after nearly 150 years; law and order became the responsibility of Zila Nazim (District Mayor), but the District Police Chief was responsible to his own professional hierarchy in matters of crime prevention, investigation and personnel management of force – this was intended to check patronage by political leadership and high-handedness on the part of police, while facilitating dispensation of justice.  District Public Safety Commissions constituted, comprising elected and appointed members, to act as a safety valve providing recourse for both Police Chief and District Mayor in cases of conflict.  Police Complaint Authority introduced to deal with serious complaints against police. Community Development  A new grassroots institution developed – Citizen Community Boards – to engage local people in service delivery. Application of subsidiarity Although the 2001 system sought to apply the principle of subsidiarity,5 Even though this was not fully implemented and many details were not resolved, especially in relation to financial decentralisation and relationships between provincial and local governments. Nevertheless, the DOPP can be said to have brought about some of the most fundamental changes in governance and local governance in Pakistan since independence in 1947. Under the 2001 system, district governments (the upper tier) were given responsibilities in agriculture, health, education, community development, information technology, finance and planning, together with revenue previously held by the provinces, and became financially competent through transferred

5 The concept of subsidiarity is that lower levels of government are closer to the citizen and can therefore make more ‘intelligent’ decisions about ‘who does what’ ie less about politics and more about principles. The Aberdeen Agenda on local democracy, adopted by the Commonwealth Local Government Forum, provides that local government should have appropriate powers in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity. Alam and Wajidi Pakistan’s Devolution of Power CJLG May 2013 27 funds and local taxes. Town/taluka governments (the middle tier) were assigned most of the functions of the former municipal authorities as the main providers of essential services (e.g water, sanitation, roads and waste disposal). The union councils (lowest/third tier) were envisaged as providing monitoring and oversight of service delivery, as well as undertaking small developmental projects. Union councils received funds directly from the district and collected some local taxes. Abolition of rural-urban divide One of the important distinguishing features of the DOPP was that it abolished the previous ruralurban divide in local government. Under the British system of administration urban local councils were established to provide essential municipal services, but the capacity of rural councils in service delivery was far less (Siddiqui 1992) as they provided only limited representation, often strengthening the local elite. Reform of the bureaucracy The DOPP was a bold attempt to transform an over-centralised bureaucracy, especially in terms of the established elite. The District Coordination Officer (DCO) of the district government, equivalent to a chief executive officer, was placed under the elected mayor. Likewise, the Superintendent of Police of the district reported to the mayor on the overall maintenance of law and order. Developmental planning Before the DOPP, the planning system was centralised and development funds were distributed to provincial departments through a top-down mechanism. The identification, appraisal, and approval of development projects had no relationship to local priorities. The element of community participation was missing from the process, which was non-transparent and inequitable. Politicians, mainly parliamentarians of national and provincial assemblies, were provided development funds to be spent according to their wishes. The DOPP provided for Citizen Community Boards (CCBs) to mobilise the community in the development and improvement of service delivery through voluntary and self-help initiatives. CCBs played a major role in the transformation of development planning by creating a sense of ownership. They were given the legal right to enable citizens to participate actively in development activities, plus an earmarked budget that could be carried over from year to year. This also introduced transparency and accountability to the development process as communities became active participants in projects instead of being passive beneficiaries. Alam and Wajidi Pakistan’s Devolution of Power CJLG May 2013 28 Organised local government– a new phenomenon in Pakistan Before and during the greater part of the DOPP period, local government associations (in the commonly understood sense) did not exist in Pakistan. However, under the DOPP there was a growing awareness and empowerment of local government that promoted a greater sense of unity and common purpose amongst its elected representatives. The first initiative came from Punjab province with the creation of the Local Councils Association of the Punjab (LCAP) in 2007. Since its inception, LCAP has become a leading national organisation not only in its lobbying of provincial and national governments, but also in paving the way for a louder voice for local democracy across the whole country. Following LCAP, new local government associations were created in the other three provinces in Pakistan – Sindh, Balochistan and the North-West Frontier (Khyber-Pakhtunkhawa). Later, in November 2009, a national local government association was launched. In the immediate post-Musharraf period the local government associations established under the DOPP sought to mobilise public support from across civil society, business and the political spectrum to call for the protection of local democracy in Pakistan and for further local government elections. The international community expressed concern about the future of local democracy in Pakistan, and the associations’ efforts were supported by local government leaders, including the Commonwealth Local Government Forum (Local Government Alliance 2009) – but at this point to no avail. Social dimensions One of the significant features of DOPP was the attempt to make social change part of the reforms. According to Randall and Strasser (1981) ‘social changes’ are those that mark the transition from one stage or phase of a construed cycle of development to another. They designate as ‘significant’ those changes that evolutionary theorists associate with the movement of social forms or a whole society from a ‘less advanced’ state towards a durable ‘advanced’ state, or from one level or epoch to another. The definition of ‘significant’ will depend on the aspect of society or the segment of social reality that is seen to be of strategic importance. For example, reforms in local government institutions may be significant both as a process of strengthening local democracy and as a way of providing better and more efficient services for economic, social and cultural development. Montiel (1988) argued that the institutional development of local government is politically and culturally bounded, therefore its context and process need to be considered accordingly. Against that background, this section examines some of the social factors and trends exhibited in the two local government elections – 2001 and 2005 – held under the DOPP. For this purpose reliance has been placed on secondary data and published sources. PATTAN6 carried out substantial work in

6 PATTAN: Pattan Development Organisation. www.pattan.org Alam and Wajidi Pakistan’s Devolution of Power CJLG May 2013 29 collecting data from the two elections and here we rely on their data (PATTAN 2006), plus other sources where available (see also Bari 2001). As shown in Table 3, the DOPP incorporated significant electoral reforms. First and foremost, the voting age was reduced from 21 to 18 years in order to increase the involvement of young people. Secondly, minimum educational qualifications were established, including having reached matriculation in order to take the position of District Mayor (Nazim). PATTAN’s analysis shows that in the 2005 elections most of the candidates indicated they had first or higher degrees. Approximately 46% claimed to be graduates while 30% said that they had higher or professional degrees. About 15% had completed their FA/FSc – equivalent to 12 years of schooling – while only 10% were educated below that level (Table 4). Table 4: Education level of District and Tehsil Nazims Education Number Percentage Less than FA 48 9.7 FA / FSc 72 14.6 BA / BSc 225 45.5 Higher than BA / BSc 150 30.5 Total 495 100.0 Table 5: Qualifications of mayors elected in Sindh province in 2001 Qualification District Mayors (N = 16) Town/Taluka Mayors(N = 102) No % No % Matriculation 3 18.8 24 23.5 Intermediate 2 12.5 10 9.8 Graduate 5 31.3 33 32.4 Masters 3 18.8 10 9.8 MBBS (Medical) 1 6.35 5 4.9 LLB (Law) 1 6.3 7 6.9 BBA 1 6.3 2 - Diploma - - 3 2.9 B.Engineering - - 3 2.9 M.Sc - - 3 2.9 MBA - - 2 2.0 Source: Alam (2004) Alam and Wajidi Pakistan’s Devolution of Power CJLG May 2013 30 Alam’s study (2004) also indicated that a younger leadership came through in the 2001 elections. In 2001, amongst Town/Taluka Nazims (with a role similar to mayor) the largest number were 46-50 years of age (about 25%), followed those aged 41-45 years (19%). The numbers aged 56-60, 66-70 and 71-75 years were very low – less than 5% combined. PATTAN data shows a similar picture for 2005. Nationwide, approximately 15% of the successful District and Town/Taluka candidates were in the age group 25-30 years while 35% were 31-40 years. Some 30% of candidates were aged 41-50 years, and approximately 20% were older than 50 years. PATTAN data also suggests that the DOPP reforms encouraged new entrants to local government. In 2001 57% of candidates for Nazims and 75% for Naib Nazims (Deputy Mayor) contested elections for the first time. In 2005 similar trends continued: approximately 70% of those elected as Union councillors were new faces, and very few of these had previously been members of Town/Taluka or District councils. Alam’s study (2004) of the 2001 elections in Sindh province again provides supporting evidence. Out of 16 district mayors elected in Sindh province none had any past experience in local government, but 12 out of 16 had been a member of a provincial or the national parliament. This in itself may be seen as a reflection of empowerment at the local government level attracting national/provincial or mainstream politicians to contest local government elections. In the category of Town/Taluka mayors only 3% had previous experience in local government, while one mayor had been a senator. Overall only 14 out of 102 Town/Taluka mayors (13.7%) had previous political experience. This suggests the emergence of a new leadership as envisioned in the devolution plan. In Pakistan, women have been contesting elections for national and provincial assemblies as well as local governments since independence. However, their representation remained very low due to socioreligious factors. In order to bring women into politics, the DOPP increased the number of reserved seats to 33% at all levels. Previously only 5% of seats were reserved for women in local councils. Thus the DOPP created about 24,000 seats for women in local governments across the country. In some parts of NWFP and Balochistan, due to social conservatism, women were not allowed to take part in the elections. However, such cases were few. Election figures showed that on the whole the provision of reserved seats had encouraged women to participate in the political affairs of the country, with nearly 22,000 women elected (including those returned unopposed). Between 2001 and 2005 there was a 100% increase in women candidates elected as Nazims and Naib Nazims, from 16 to 32. Similarly, in Sindh province in 2005 four women became District Nazims as compared to only two in 2001. It should be noted, however, that Sindh’s literacy rate and educational standards are better than those in less advanced provinces like Balochistan and NWFP. Nationally, the Alam and Wajidi Pakistan’s Devolution of Power CJLG May 2013 31 candidature for District and Town/Taluka Nazims was almost totally a male affair, with only 1.4% of women candidates. Determining whether or not social change actually occurred as a result of the DOPP is a complex matter. It requires study not only of the institutions of local government but also diverse aspects of Pakistani society including trends in the economy, demography, culture, history, law, politics, education and religion. Two terms of local governments under DOPP, cumulatively eight years, are not sufficient to gauge any definite trends in the political milieu of the country. However, based on the limited data presented above it is possible to identify some early signs of change and to suggest that the direction of the reforms did indeed have the potential to initiate modernisation of the political and administrative system in Pakistan as envisaged by the military government. Recent developments, prospects and conclusions In a study of five fragile countries Anten et al (2012) conclude that Pakistan offers the most detailed example of a process of decentralisation that has only partially achieved its objectives. This article echoes their concern that decentralisation cannot proceed effectively in a governance system that suffers from a number of dysfunctional factors. A central characteristic of the polity of Pakistan has been alternating civilian and military rule, with each period of military rule patronising and introducing its own brand of grassroots democracy. Within that context, the Devolution of Power Plan (DOPP) introduced by General Musharraf in 2001 was a radical departure, as it comprised a package of changes to the public sector including decentralisation, electoral, public service and police reforms. In effect, it was an attempt to change the governance paradigm. Although the data is patchy, available evidence suggests that over the period 2001-2009 substantial progress was made towards effective decentralisation, in particular a sound system of democratic local government. However, since 2009 the decentralisation agenda has faltered, at least as far as local government is concerned. After the general elections of 2008, a new civilian government came into power and General Pervez Musharraf stepped down. Based on past experience in Pakistan, there was apprehension that the civilian government would not maintain local government institutions, especially the DOPP system. This is exactly what happened and at the time of writing the local government elections originally due in 2009 have yet to be held and local governments are being managed by non-elected administrators. As of writing this article, the General Elections have been announced for 11 May, 2013, but local government elections still seem a far cry. Though most of the political parties have mentioned local government elections in their manifestos, but time will tell if these will be held in the near future. At the same time, during the election process, the media is putting a lot of pressure and is highlighting the importance of grassroots democracy. Alam and Wajidi Pakistan’s Devolution of Power CJLG May 2013 32 While the nation goes to general elections this month (May 2013), the situation in all four provinces is different. Until 2009 the local governments operated in the country under provincial local government ordinances promulgated in 2001 popularly known as the Devolution Plan. However, after the expiry of constitutional protection (17th Amendment) each province adopted different variant of the 2001 Ordinance and 1979 Local Government Ordinance introduced by General Ziaul Haq, including hybrid versions of both these laws. From 2009 until 2013 provinces experimented with different forms of these laws according to prevailing political expediency. As of today, KPK province (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) has a law predominantly based on the 1979 LG Ordinance. Similarly, Balochistan province also reverted to a pre-devolution 1979 law but because of a court decision the 2001 law is operative legally. Punjab province introduced its own local government law but in essence this is largely based on 2001 Ordinance. The situation in Sindh province was quite peculiar, primarily due to coalition government and strong stance of the parties – the Peoples Local Government Ordinance 2012 was promulgated after a prolonged negotiation between coalition partners spanning several years but this was short lived as it was annulled before announcement of the general elections giving effect to the erstwhile 1979 Ordinance. Also, in 2012 the Government promulgated the FATA Local Government Regulation, 2012, to regulate and establish municipal bodies in the federally administered tribal areas. However, again, no elections have been announced so far. It appears that the DOPP, although home-grown, had the tag of a military regime and therefore suffered from negative perceptions, even though decentralisation is still seen as a necessary part of broader governance and public sector reform. The DOPP had also included a component of devolution from federal to provincial governments, named ‘Higher-Level Restructuring’. Despite pressure from the provinces this did not take place under the Musharraf government, but in 2010 it was implemented through the 18th Constitutional Amendment. As a result, inter alia, the Ministry of Local Government at the federal level has been abolished. Also, at around the same time, the federal government disbanded the National Reconstruction Bureau and replaced it with a Policy Analysis Unit (PAU) headed by an adviser to the President. The PAU operated for only a brief period until it was in turn abolished. Thus from 2008, when a civilian (‘political’) government returned to power, most of the features of DOPP have been steadily eroded. Achieving complete devolution of power in Pakistan is clearly a huge undertaking. Such institutional reforms are complex, time consuming and inevitably opposed by those interest groups which benefit from the existing system. For example, the effective diffusion of economic power is an essential prerequisite of meaningful devolution, and one that has perhaps received insufficient attention. Economic power notably that derived from ownership of land, gets parlayed into political power which, in Alam and Wajidi Pakistan’s Devolution of Power CJLG May 2013 33 collusion with other entrenched interest groups such as the bureaucracy, restricts the empowerment of citizens. Decentralisation is inherently neither good nor bad. It is a means to an end. Successful decentralisation can improve the efficiency and responsiveness of the public sector, and also contribute to significant social change, which cannot occur without supportive institutional development. At the local level, the DOPP brought about substantially enhanced participation of women in government, involvement of a broader cross-section of society in political life, and more educated, responsive and democratic leadership. According to Anten et al (2012), institutional reforms that do not align with the interests and incentives of power-holders are unlikely to lead to robust new arrangements. They argue that the World Bank’s recent emphasis on an ‘experimental best-fit’ route to reform of the state is a sensible acknowledgement of these difficulties. Political factors are therefore crucial in determining the possibilities for reform and development especially in a fragile state environment. Strong political will and leadership are needed to create and maintain conducive conditions for a steady process of institutional change and development. In the case of DOPP, once the main architect of reform had departed the scene, progress came to a grinding halt, and the current political environment is uncertain. We conclude that decentralisation cannot be approached as a stand-alone activity but must draw on and form part of a country’s broader democratic and political culture. Parallel institutional development needs to be ongoing, and for this to occur supportive elements have to be designed and introduced in the constitutional framework and political system. Specifically, local government should not be regarded just as the lowest tier of the government, but as a distinct sphere that is closest to the citizens, with sufficient administrative and financial autonomy to serve its constituents. Unless these elements are institutionalized, the sustainability of decentralisation programs remains at risk. In Pakistan, it would seem that for various reasons military governments have been more willing to accept this challenge: if civilian governments are shy of nurturing grassroots democracy, it raises significant questions about their democratic values and commitment to empowering citizens. The recently concluded term of elected democratic political government (2008-13) strongly endorses this argument. 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