Regional Institute of Policy Research and Training (RIPORT), realizing the weakness of focus on public policy in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, decided to fill the void by holding periodic dialogue on pressing issues amongst the stake-holders, experts and policy makers for formulating appropriate recommendations for policy reforms to meet the challenges.
In line with this objective, RIPORT Policy Forum was launched in September 2010 as an advocacy wing of RIPORT, by holding the first Forum seminar on 28 September 2010 at Marriot Hotel Islamabad on the “Causes of Conflict in Swat”. This was followed by the second Forum workshop, held on 2nd December 2010 in Peshawar on, “Future Regional Security in Pakistan and Afghanistan after 2011: Issues and Challenges,” focusing on the dynamics of US exit from Afghanistan and its repercussions on the geo-political landscape of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa.
This is the third report in the series and deals with the examination of “Effectiveness of Governance in the Districts of KPK after 2008.”
The Forum discussions clearly indicate that district governance has become ineffective although it is more than two years since the 2008 elections. The conclusions from these discussions indicate that unless the situation is remedied quickly, the government may have to face the citizens’ adverse reactions at the next polls.
I want to complement RIPORT for organizing the 3rd Forum as well as for compiling this report.
- PURPOSE OF ROUND TABLE CONSULTATION.
The third Round-Table of RIPORT Policy Forum was held on 23rd. May 2011 in the KP University of Agriculture Peshawar to review the “Effectiveness of governance in the districts of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa after 2008”, with special reference to the Local Government reforms introduced under the Devolution Plan in 2002.
The participants included eminent scholars, practitioners, and senior civil servants, members of media and intelligentsia, who dilated upon different dimensions of the local government system and the actions by successive governments that virtually mutilated the district and sub-divisional administration, particularly after the 2002 Local Bodies Reforms. The Forum aimed at identifying the inherent anomalies and institutional weaknesses in the system with a view to suggesting public oriented policy reforms.
- EXPECTED RESULTS
In the light of conclusion likely to emerge as a result of analysis of performance of district administration that has been running the district governments since 2008, the Forum was expected to recommend improvements to enhance the quality of service delivery to the common man, as well as to remove his grievances and thus provide an effective pivot of governance at the district and tehsil level that was deteriorating rapidly thus permitting others to occupy this space at the cost of the state.
The debate was moderated by Khalid Aziz, Chairman RIPORT. After recitation from the holy Quran, the Chairman in his opening remarks highlighted the need for reviewing the status of service delivery and solving of people’s problems under the present system of district government in the province, which was assigned an overriding role under the erstwhile Devolution Plan.
He urged participants of the meeting to provide a critical assessment of the capacity and effectiveness of local government apparatus under the existing framework, focusing particularly on the performance of the institution from the perspective of governance, service delivery and disaster preparedness.
The Chairman requested the participants for viable suggestions aimed at strengthening the governance mechanism to redress public grievances by delivering basic services to the common man. He then requested the five panelists, named below, to give their expert views on the relevant issues, noted against each:
- Mr. Zakaullah Khan, DCO Nowshera
(Issue: How is the district management of today different from the previous, i.e. 2002-2008 model and what was the effectiveness of a DCO today?)
Mr. Akmal Minallah, DFID Consultant on Financial Reforms,
(Issue: Improving services at community level through institutional change)
- Qazi Jamil, DIG Police, Malakand Range, KPK.
(Issue: Security problems of Local Government from the perspective of extremism)
- Mr. Mushtaq Jadoon, Secretary Inter-Provincial Coordination, Government of KPK.
(Issue: Effectiveness and failure of District Government under the Devolution Plan)
- Dr. Ihsanul Haq, Secretary Reform Management Unit, Government of KPK.
(Issue: Need for legislation for alternative Local Government system to fill the existing vacuum in KPK)
- GIST OF PRESENTATIONS
- HOW IS THE DISTRICT MANAGEMENT OF TODAY DIFFERENT FROM 2002-2008 MODEL AND THE EFFECTIVENESS OF A DCO TODAY?
- Mr. Zakaullah Khan, DCO Nowshera opened the discussion with a comparison of the administrative machinery in the district before 2002 and the one installed thereafter, in terms of transparency and effectiveness.
- He dubbed the system as completely paralyzed in 2008, following the roll-back of the LG Ordinance of 2002, disbanding the District Nazims and other Nazimeen and allowing the newly elected MNAs/ MPAs to step into their shoes. The system collapsed on the eve of devastating floods in Nowshera and other districts, when neither public representatives nor the weakened district bureaucracy was able to handle the emergency. The DCO and his team had no capacity to deal with the disaster. Previously there was a District Assembly assisting the District Nazim. After 2008, following the abolition of the institution of District Nazim and his political arm, the District Assembly, the linkages with the defunct UC Nazims at the grass-root level were broken, resulting in complete administrative chaos in the district. Thus the entrustment of district administration to a powerless DCO was absurd. The DCO had become superfluous, as officials of the line departments had aligned themselves with grass-root political elite in the district, who dictated terms to the helpless DCO in the matter of prioritization of development expenditure as well as disciplinary proceedings against the defaulting subordinates in the district government.
- As such the District Government in the existing mutilated shape is incapacitated to help the public for redressal of their grievances even under normal circumstances, what to speak of floods and other natural calamities, when the system has collapsed.
- SECURITY PROBLEMS OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF EXTREMISM. (See Presentation at Annexure B)
- Qazi Jamil DIG Malakand, the second discussant, dilated upon effectiveness of police as a law enforcing agency, in terms of controlling crime , investigation and prosecution of cases in the context of terrorism and armed insurgency unleashed in the districts of Malakand division in 2008-2010, that had paralyzed the law and order situation in the region. His presentation drew a line between the peak-time crime situations in 2008-2009 when militancy was rampant in the area, compared to a steep decline as a result of military operations in the conflict zones in 2010 onward. Needless to say that during military crack-down the role of civil administration lessened.
- He attributed the lack of preparedness and effectiveness of Police to the changed dynamics of policing in these areas against counter-insurgency, which was never the mandate of police in the past. Under normal conditions, however, good governance coupled with speedy dispensation of justice can mitigate drivers of conflict and extremist tendencies in the community. Timely redressal of public grievances by district government, coupled with responsible policing can discourage radicalization of society. Local government can, with enhanced capacity and well-equipped/ trained police force, counter the insurgency and extremism provided it is accessible, responsive, transparent and accountable, he concluded.
IMPROVING SERVICES AT COMMUNITY LEVEL THROUGH INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE (See Presentation at Annexure C)
- Mr. Akmal Minallah, DFID Consultant, stressed on delivery of basic services to the people as the primary responsibility and goal of any government. To achieve this objective, availability of adequate resources and their allocation are essential, subject to fiscal discipline. Rational resource allocation, which is the basic instrument for budget implementation, depends on predictable funding and a credible policy and both these elements must have linkages to ensure service delivery to the public as the ultimate beneficiaries. This cycle of virtue had collapsed under the devolved system of governance.
- He observed that under the erstwhile LG system the focus remained on construction of buildings of schools and BHUs etc. at the cost of service delivery. The public buildings are thus lying un-utilized and were largely occupied by influential political elite, who used these as their hujras or turned them into cattle / poultry farms in many rural and sub-urban areas.
- EFFECTIVENESS AND FAILURES OF DISTRICT GOVERNMENT UNDER THE DEVOLUTION PLAN
- Mr. Mushtaq Jadoon, Secretary Inter-Provincial Coordination, underlined the element of tribal mindset and adherence to Islamic values as the driving force behind the wave of insurgency in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa and FATA. He drew a comparison between the uprising in Northern Ireland and the prevailing unrest in K.P. province of Pakistan and added that the only difference in the two scenarios is that here the insurgents and their sympathizers are more organized and devoted to the aforesaid two elements as a binding force, while in the Irish situation the very legitimacy of the State had been challenged. In both cases the use of brutal force failed to deliver the desired results. He said the murder of Akbar Bugti and military operations in FATA/ PATA are likely to intensify the wave of insurgency and the creation of more Akbar Bugtis and Sufi Mohammads in the volatile region.
- The LG model based on the Local Government reforms of 2002 represented an imperial design that promised more powers and favors to those Nazims, who held allegiance to the ruling political party, while the others were side-lined. Under these reforms, the District Administration that symbolized and asserted the authority of the provincial government was demolished by amending the Police Order and the relevant provisions of Code of Criminal Procedure and thereby marginalized the provincial government with a view to creating a political constituency for Gen. Musharraf. The imbalances brought into the system as a result of this unconstitutional intervention have paralyzed the district administration that could not be put back on track even by the 18th amendment of the Constitution. What is required is to do away with all these distortions and to retrieve the LG election process from the purview of Election Commission of Pakistan which has rendered the constitution of the new Local Councils a cumbersome exercise.
- NEED FOR LEGISLATION FOR ALTERNATIVE SYSTEM TO FILL THE VACUUM IN KP
- Dr. Ihsanul Haq, Secretary Reform Management Unit, pointed out that there is no local government system in place at present in the province or elsewhere in the country. The existing local government set up is only a transitional arrangement. The provincial government has initiated steps for new legislation to redefine and reorganize the local government structure in the province. A bill for the purpose is already with the Provincial Assembly, he added.
- What is required is to push the Bill on priority agenda for legislation, as done recently by the Balochistan Assembly. The discussion on the role and powers/ status of DCO under the present interim arrangements is thus open to reform.
- He recommended that there is need for bringing the proposed legislation on future set up of local government, under scrutiny at a similar workshop by RIPORT- FORUM. He suggested that a copy of the LG bill now passed by the Balochistan Assembly be also obtained before embarking on the next Forum consultation on the proposed legislation.
- Dr. Ihsan, nonetheless, dilated upon some weaknesses of the erstwhile LG system introduced in the province under 2002-reforms. He recounted the misuse of the system by Gen. Musharraf as his constituency in the Referendum. Moreover, the enormous control on development expenditure/ADP that still rested with the provincial government negated the very concept of decentralization.
- Similarly, the control of law and order/ police in the hands of District Nazim, who represented the political bureaucracy, made the system, including police and magistracy, biased and politicized at the grass- root level. In addition, the District Government system was not extended to the territories of Islamabad, Azad Kashmir and Gilgit- Baltistan without any reason. He believed that thus the 2002 LG Reforms were introduced by Gen. Musharraf for his own political gain and not for good governance and improved service delivery to the common man.
- GENERAL DISCUSSION BY PARTICIPANTS
- Habibullah Khan, Secretary SAFRON, said that the LG system that was installed in the country under the 2002 Devolution Plan was an absolute failure. Narrating instances of inefficiency in the system, he maintained that the breakdown of the LG institutions on the eve of earth-quake in Hazara and Malakand divisions, followed by the onslaught of militancy in Swat and other parts of Malakand were its direct outcome.
- He lamented the indifferent attitude of the local political elite who immediately dashed to Islamabad, leaving the helpless masses in the lurch at the mercy of terrorists
- Similarly the service delivery under the LG system remained at the lowest ebb. Just the example of 22 health facilities in Shangla and Kohistan districts being occupied by local influential for personal uses sufficiently explains the magnitude of mismanagement and incompetency of district governments.
- Habibullah Khan suggested that reinstalling the same LG system in the province will amount to sheer wastage of time and resources. LG system in this country has always been the requirement of military dictators and not the masses. He, however, observed that an LG system under the proposed legislation will last only if its jurisdiction is clearly defined and the development of the local/ rural areas is exclusively assigned to it, while the legislative business is placed at the disposal of political forces.
- He summed up to say : the democratically elected political government may be allowed to decide on the future set-up of Local Government after open debate in the Assembly and we should not get bogged down in the debate whether the erstwhile LG system or the earlier Commissionerate system be re-introduced.
- Said Rehman, Provincial Coordinator Local Government department attributed the inefficiency, corruption and break-down of service delivery to the LG Reforms 2002. As example, he pointed out that the position of District Nazim D.I. Khan was kept vacant for a long time in order to appease a local politician for political considerations. The reforms, he said, were introduced to get the desired results in the Presidential Referendum. (See Presentation at Annexure D)
- Professor Dr. Munirul Khattak of Agriculture University stressed that we ought to learn from history and experience accumulated as a result of the trial and error process. Any system that does not guarantee delivery of basic services to the tax-payers cannot last. Political leadership and bureaucracy must own the poor tax payers. This is possible only if the concerned institutions are vested with powers to redress the grievances of the people. Institutions are more important than individuals. To make institutions really sustainable they must be empowered to deliver the requisite services to the people.
- Mushtaq Jadoon made a reference to financial mismanagement by expenditure of millions of rupees of foreign assistance on construction of residential units in Health/ Education sectors in the periphery of urban centers that remain unoccupied.
- Khalid Aziz intervened to say that the contractors lobby that finances the election campaigns of MPAs highjack the construction and development initiatives. The concerned MPAs are accordingly trapped to favor the contractors rather than worry about the service delivery to the public.
- As such the government, both Provincial and local do not have the will and capacity to deliver services to the local population and are unable to tap into the “youth bulge”.
As a result of in-depth discussion on different aspects of the subject, a consensus emerged at conclusion of the Round Table and the following recommendations were made by the participants:
- The LG system put in place in the country/ province under the 2002- Devolution Plan was a complete failure because:
- The District Governments could not respond to emergencies, emanating from natural calamities like earth-quake and floods. There was no institutional capacity of the district administration to deal with situations like militancy and insurgencies. This capacity needed development as the military should not be called for every problem;
- With abolition of the institution of District Nazim and District Assembly and breaking of the linkage with Union Nazims at the grass-root level, the system collapsed as the DCO, who is now in-charge of the district government did not have powers to run the administration effectively;
- Police and magistracy were politicized and the law and order mechanism was paralyzed as the DCO was not empowered to provide magisterial cover to the local police in maintaining law and order. This resulted from removal of District Magistrate, paralyzing the district and sub-divisional administration. This encouraged growth of insurgency on the one hand and weakened governance on the other.
- In the prevailing scenario there is practically no LG system now in place in the districts of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, to the detriment of the citizens whose grievances are lying unattended.
- The Forum proposed immediate filling of administrative vacuum, by introducing an alternative LG system, vested with relevant power and capacity to deliver basic services and manage development at the grass-root /village level, without political interference. The assembly members should focus on legislating.
- The new LG setup should not function as an electoral college for any electoral process.
- The decentralization of powers from province to the district government in the relevant spheres should be complete, leaving no room for interference by the provincial government, particularly in matter of development expenditure, project identification and bureaucratic postings that should be handled administratively.
- The capacity of the new district government may be enhanced in financial and administrative terms, aimed at ensuring good governance, prompt service delivery and rapid emergency response to crises.
- The institution of DCO may be elevated from its symbolic role of a post office to a controlling authority in respect of all line-departments, including police, magistracy and revenue departments with a monitoring role to streamline the service delivery and developmental process in the district.
- Law and order may be placed under the charge of DCO instead of District Nazim, who represents the political bureaucracy in the district, to avoid politicization of the system, particularly police and magistracy at the grass-root level.
- Local government can, with enhanced capacity assist in countering the insurgency and extremism, provided it is accessible, responsive, transparent and accountable to the local population and has well-trained and well-equipped police force at its command.
- The LG Bill pending in the Provincial Assembly for legislating may be processed on priority basis by the Assembly, as done by the Balochistan Assembly.
- RIPORT FORUM may consider holding a similar Round-Table debate for scrutinizing the proposed legislation on future set-up of local government in the province. A copy of similar legislation passed recently by the Baluchistan Assembly may be obtained for guidance/ discussion.
The Chairman summed up the proceedings by highlighting the main issues discussed by the participants. He concluded, by saying that:
- Local Government Reforms 2002 were used for personal benefit by the erstwhile government, instead of helping the people.
- Delivery of service should be transferred to private sector. Government may only regulate and monitor the process of service delivery, by laying down yardsticks and criteria for the purpose.
- Holding of local bodies’ election in each district of the country is obviously beyond the capacity of Election Commission of Pakistan. The Implementation Committee of the 18th Amendment of the Constitution may therefore revisit the existing arrangements and reassign the task to the Provincial Election Authority in each province.
- A lion’s share of the budget expenditure should be allocated for provision of better services to the people, rather than creating more unproductive jobs/ constructing buildings.
- DCOs should be adequately empowered and made the pivot for service delivery and redressal of public grievances in districts.
- Effective steps should be taken to prevent high-jacking of development by contractor’s mafia and job seekers at the cost of service delivery to the people.
- RIPORT may provide technical assistance and advisory services to the LG department by suggesting appropriate inputs for the new draft legislation on LG system, now under process in the provincial assembly.
Necessary amendments may in the meanwhile be carried out in the Local Government Ordinance, Code of Criminal Procedure and the Police Order to bring the system at par with the expectations of the common man, as identified in the foregoing findings and recommendations by the Forum.
The Forum consultation ended with a vote of thanks to the discussants and participants for their valued contribution and useful input in arriving at viable recommendations for policy reforms on different subjects.