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- Saturday, September 15, 2012 - From Print Edition

The new local government ordinance, promulgated by the government in the dead of night, is an almost identical copy of Gen Musharraf’s local government ordinance that was so vehemently criticised and mocked by the very same people who have found new faith in it by merely adding the word “peoples” to its title. How little it takes to please some people! It is so similar that even the spelling and drafting errors of the old ordinance have been repeated; that’s the comedic side-effect of “cut-and-paste” legislation. The Constitution of Pakistan states that “each province shall, by law, establish a local government system and devolve political, administrative and financial responsibility and authority to the elected representatives of the local governments.”

Local government, by definition, implies governance at the grass-roots level, and in administrative sizes, in which the voice of the common man can be heard. Merging Karachi’s five districts into one mega metropolitan corporation which, population wise, comprises over one-thirds of Sindh, cannot in any way be described as grass-roots devolution. If it is so, what justification is there to break Hyderabad into four pieces? Why not give the people of Hyderabad the same system of good governance? The new ordinance has many flaws, but the most glaring of them is the bifurcation of Sindh into two categories of districts, one run by mayors and the other by chairmen. One has been granted extraordinary powers whilst the other reduced to rubber-stamping lackey of the ruling provincial government. If these “metropolitan corporations” are the panacea to all the poor-governance ills affecting Sindh then let’s have these in each and every district of Sindh. Everyone in the province deserves the best available system after all, don’t they?

Los Angeles in California actually comprises 88 incorporated cities, all with their own mayors. Legally speaking, London is, in fact, only one square mile of a town within a cosmopolitan conglomeration of 50 independently functioning councils. Therefore, we can see that local governments, operating so well in other countries, even in mega cities, are structured in administrative and political sizes in which people, figuratively speaking at least, can have their voice heard in town halls. That is the essence of local government.

Arif Mustafa Jatoi

MPA Sindh Assembly

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