Pakistan Observer

18th Amendment empowers provinces

IPRI National Conference concludes

Ashraf Ansari

Thursday, June 30, 2011 - Islamabad—Speakers at a national conference on 18th Constitutional Amendment were unanimous that the devolution to lowest level was the spirit of 18th Constitutional Amendment.

On the second day of conference, Zafarullah Khan, speaking on devolution of powers to provinces, said the 18th Amendment has transferred powers but the phase of transformation is still underway. He said that it was wrong to say that provinces were not ready to handle new responsibilities. This transition must be facilitated through creating a federal culture, reforming parties and strengthening provincial civil services.

He said that only those projects should be undertaken at federal level which are supported by more than one province. Akbar Nasir Khan of UNDP speaking on federalism in the wake of 18th Amendment said the country was undergoing for transition from centralism to provincialism and from military rule to civil rule. This would need great care and caution to make the two transitions proceed on course, he added. Prof. Dr. Naheed Anjum of the Balochistan University speaking on the impact of the 18th Amendment said that there was not so progress about the Aghaz programme for Balochistan as was expected. She advocated dialogue with stakeholders in Balochistan. She said 18th Amendment was an attempt for resolution of the problems faced by the provinces.

Prof. Razia Musrarrat from Islamia University, Bahawalpur said that creation of new provinces would strengthen the Federation. But, this could only be done with consent of the units, she added.

Syed Hussain Shaheed Soherwordy of Peshawar University speaking on adverse implications of creation of new provinces said the provinces could not be created on economic or administrative viability as ethnicity and language were strong forces of provincial integration.

He said people needed availability of Atta, ghee and pulses, not new provinces. He said good governance would dilute the demand for new provinces.

Dr. Tariq Rahman who was chairing the session said that ethnicity cannot be dismissed. New provinces are demanded to secure power and justice and equitable share in resources, he added. As long as new provinces stay in the Federation there can be nothing wrong with creating new provinces, he added.

Barrister Shahid Hamid said that local governments were not allowed to work which is one factor behind the gross mismanagement of resources and poor implementation of development projects.

In structuring a local government system the principle of devolving to the lowest level must be followed, he said. A primary school must be governed by a local council, he added. He opposed non-party based elections for local bodies as they introduced polarization and promoted elite control over governance. He asked provinces to devise a new structure for local bodies in the light of the 18th amendment.

Prof Zafar Moeen Nasir of PIDE speaking on devolution of resources to local governments said only an effective local bodies system can bring change in the lives of the poor people living in far flung rural and backward areas.
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