Mirza Jawad Baig It is to be carefully noted that since the establishment of Pakistan, all the three power groups within the political framework i.e. politicians, bureaucrats and the army, got more than ample opportunities, time and again, to rule the country according to their own free will. All of them, however, failed to achieve the basic objects of maintenance of law and order, political stability and national integration, what to say of progress and prosperity. Indeed, therefore, there is some thing inherent in our overall system, hitherto hidden and un-noticed, which rejects democracy and is, in fact, causing instability in the structural framework of our federation, thereby obstructing the process of national integration. What is it is precisely disclosed hereunder: Actually, against the norms of a free and democratic society, a centralised system of administration, contrary to their own, was the need of the erstwhile British rulers in order to control their subjects in their colonies thousands of miles away. So, provinces in British India were formed to enjoy practically all the powers needed to control the daily lives of the common man and their activities. Hence, the subjects of law and order, police, administration of justice, revenue and general administration, education, health, agriculture etc, all belonging to local jurisdiction in free and democratic societies, were transferred and put together under the command and authority of the provincial government, headed by a British governor. The field administration of the provincial government besides acting as revenue officers also coordinated functions at the lower levels. That hierarchical pattern of administration was well suited to the bureaucratic needs of effective decision-making and had become firmly established before the colonial power decided to provide a representative local government system in their colonies. The system of government that we had inherited, therefore, at the time of independence was the colonial system devised to suit the requirements of an imperial power ruling from a distance, in which the local government is placed under the jurisdiction and authority of the provincial government and made a creature of statute, which could be created or abolished at the sweet will of the provincial government and its legislature. Its council remains under perpetual threat of suppression, if it does not tow the lines of the provincial government. Frequently, the latter assumes direct responsibility of local authority through its appointed agents. This is because, in contrast to the general practice in established democracies, the local government in our society is neither autonomous nor constitutionally protected or even recognised as a tier of government. We should have changed this colonial system immediately after independence at the first instance; however, we failed to do so and are still chained in a slave system of government. Democratic traditions have not yet taken roots in our society and though we call ourselves 'a free nation, we have not yet learned to differentiate between slavery and freedom, or say were not allowed to learn that way. If at any time, therefore, some active interest in local affairs is taken by someone, it soon degenerated into direct interference by the higher levels of government, especially provincial government. There is greater intolerance for dissent and many local councils are suspended on various pretexts every now and then. It is indeed commendable that local governments enjoyed more respect and authority during the military regimes in Pakistan than the so-called democratic governments. Ironically, the military regimes had in fact tried to resuscitate the local government and gradually tried to strengthen it, while the elected political regimes did just the opposite. Even under the quasi-political regime of Ayub Khan, we had noticed the growth of the institution of local government under the name of Basic Democracy. On the contrary, during the entire period that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto remained in power, he did not allow democratically elected local government to function, which remained suspended for more than six years, until revived by Ziaul Haq in 1978. For Mr Bhutto it was easier to handle bureaucrats rather than to deal with elected representatives coming out from different political parties at the grassroots. Similarly now, under the 'champions of democracy, we are witnessing elected local governments to be suspended once again and replaced by bureaucracy. Only those elements are opposing the internationally adopted autonomous local government who have failed to get any representation at the local level in the past and do not expect to have any in future as well. The British rulers, for obvious reasons, did not develop the western part of the sub-continent, which ever since remained a deeply polarised society; sectarian, ethnic, provincial, social and economical. The worst form of polarisation is manifested in rampant provincialism. Hence, one of the main reasons of opposition on the part of the so-called 'champions of democracy towards internationally accepted and adopted autonomous local governments, is the glamour of size, which is the part of the upbringing in and social behaviour of the tribal environment, producing sardars, chaudhries, maliks, pirs, vaderas and jagirdars, where big is emphasised and glorified at the expense of the small. It is, however, not realised that the local government, having direct contact with the people at the grassroots, is actually the foundation on which the entire edifice of democracy stands. The secret of well being and prosperity of the citizens all over the world lies in the establishment of autonomous local governments, which are totally run, managed and governed by the citizens themselves. It has been universally accepted that an autonomous local self-government conserves the dignity of man and stimulates community activity. It is mainly through this process that the contact and the confidence of the government and the governed can be maintained and it is at this level alone that conditions can best be provided for the creation of a harmonious community to which all citizens feel they belong and for which they also feel responsible. In the presence of a strong network of provincial administration, starting from the provincial capital and radiating in all directions, down to the village level, it is idle to think that any sense of meaningful participation through their local councils can be inculcated in the general masses at the grassroots level. Again, the provincial governments also control the police and are responsible for the administration of justice, revenue and land administration and have large financial resources collected and assigned to them by the federal government, according to a certain formula. This also enables it to patronise those whom it likes and deny its patronage to others through its budgetary allocations. On top of it, the provincial government can also expropriate the resources of local governments and the combined result of this patronage and expropriation is that there is a massive transfer of resources from one area to another. Through this exercise the provincial government can please its favourite constituents and ensure continuity in office. Further, with the provincial functionaries available and enjoying wide powers, it is a difficult decision for an elected provincial government specially having the sort of leadership that we have today, not to use its own chain of command and authority and instead encourage 'rival representative institution of local government It may thus be observed that the main obstacle to the growth of a healthy democratically elected local government system in our country is the presence of the 'field administration of the provincial government which is appointed by it and is responsible to it alone. On the other hand, the elected local government is not truly recognised as 'government in our society. It is, therefore, not surprising that people have little respect for our local authorities and regard them as yet another 'department of the provincial government, discharging some petty functions at the local level. In all the developed countries of the world including USA and Japan, where there is a parallel development of local government and the field agents of the central government, the state governments and the local authorities exist without the need of provincial field administrators. Despite large size of states and in spite of the fact that state governments are quite powerful, they do not manage local affairs. The local authorities deal directly with the state and federal governments whenever necessary and all this has been evolved through centuries of trial and error of the democratic societies all over the world. The elected government at the state and local levels have learned to respect each others jurisdictions and police and local courts are always locally administered. Some additional arrangements are being adopted in Japan, where local governments are also authorised to issue passports. Further, Tokyo metropolitan government keeps direct contact with its citizens abroad, through one of its departments called 'External Affairs and Tourist. On the other hand, because of unitary form of governments, the local authorities in most of the European countries, including the United Kingdom and also in USA, in addition to managing local affairs, extensively act as agents to the central government in performing large number of functions and many of these maintain airports and seaports far bigger in sizes than the Karachi airport and Karachi, Gwadar and Bin Qasim seaports put together. However, the lack of confidence in the local representatives is so pervasive in our society that any reference even to the transfer of police and revenue administration functions to local government, having considered far too serious and important subjects to be left to the political control at the local level, is summarily rejected not only by the bureaucrats, academicians, and the intellectuals but also by the so-called politicians of today, who are ignorant of the norms of democracy. It is all the more surprising when those very persons who take pride in calling themselves 'champions of democracy and claim to have suffered a lot in the struggle for its revival, while strongly advocating representative systems at the higher levels of government, are in the forefront in denying legitimate authority to the people at the most important and the very basic level of democracy, the local government. It is, however, not understood why, if the people cannot be trusted to elect suitable persons to manage their own local police and revenue machinery, where any mismanagement would by and large effect themselves alone, the same people could be relied upon to elect persons who would control such important functions at the federal level as defence, foreign affairs, international trade, allocation and disposal of huge funds and above all printing of currency notes. One, therefore, cannot help coming to the conclusion that it is only the colonial powers, still held by our provincial governments, which act as a barrier and prevent the basic democratic institution of local government to function properly and hinder its growth and development in the direction of free democratic societies. Actually, as is prevalent in almost all democratic countries, what we need is a re-organised three-tier system of political administration. At the top, the federal government apart from its present functions should also take the ultimate responsibility of ensuring that there is internal peace and harmony; that people, services and goods (including water, gas, electricity, oil etc) are free to move from one place to another without unreasonable checks and barriers, as one finds in United Kingdom, where the entire structure is based on the local governments. The lowest level i.e. the local government, is actually the appropriate contact level of the people, where the local communities can establish direct contact with their governments and get almost all their problems resolved easily and speedily. It is, therefore, at this level alone that all the important functions, at present being performed by the colonial type monolithic bureaucracy of our provincial governments, should be discharged. The middle tier, i.e. the provincial government, would still retain the important functions of regional planning and coordination among local governments. It would also provide region-wide services, mainly through sectoral authorities, whose approach should be more technical and professional rather than political and participative. The provincial government may also provide guidance and technical advice and make arrangements for the training of staff. The major services, such as irrigation, highways, electricity etc, should be handled by specialised agencies like WAPDA. Such re-distribution of functions is close to the systems, we find in most democratic countries in Europe and also in United States and Japan. (To be continued)