The government of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (PK) wants to bring changes to the KP Local Government Act, 2013. However, the task seems to be a hard one, especially after witnessing a heated debate that ensued in the provincial assembly on Monday. While the government wants to abolish the “district councils” that is part of the three-tier setup, the opposition benches see the possible move a violation of the constitution.

It is true that the local government act has certain flaws that need to be rectified. But before making any other comment, the question that the ruling party needs to answer is, will the government decision to abolish the district tier of the LG system not constitute centralisation of authority?

It is possible that the government wants to minimise the red tape by abolishing the district councils. But the way the government wants to bring changes in the Act has already made many members of the opposition parties suspicious of the government’s designs. The concern raised by one of the opposition members is not unjustified who argued that they received information about the upcoming changes through media. Given that the government did not bring the issue on the floor of the house, it’s clear that it was expecting a backlash from the opposition over its plans to amend the Act.

Moreover, the debate over the local government also exposed the limitations of PTI in taking democracy to the grassroots levels, as it did not release the development funds that were supposed to be spent through local bodies. The failure to transfer funds means that the government does not want the system to grow. The government’s refusal to release development funds to the local bodies is equivalent to depriving the system of the oxygen it needs for efficient working.

One of the two possible scenarios in the aftermath of the abolition of the district councils is reverting the powers to the provincial governments. Doing so will be indeed a violation of the constitution. In another possible scenario, the government can empower the lower two tiers by granting them powers of the district council.

Empowering the two tiers will be a step in the right direction, as it will provide people with services at their doorsteps. Nevertheless, the government needs to take the reservations raised by opposition parties seriously. It should bring all the stakeholders on board while amending the act to make it more effective.