I think one big problem in Pakistan is that in addition to being corrupt and inefficient, the government officials and leaders are too distant from the masses. Now, one solution would be to have the country divided into a lot of smaller provinces. However, this solution which looks sound in theory could create lot of administrative and financial problems and except for creation of one or two additional provinces in Punjab, would not be advisable for the country, at least in the present conditions when things are in a state of flux. However, the next best thing could be the formation of third-tier, independent and duly empowered local governments, with even the law-enforcers under them. This would definitely improve services to the community by local government officials, who would be living among the people they are supposed to serve and thus easily accessible to them and to hold accountable.

I have no hesitation in saying that PML-N government's local government act does not further the cause of much-trumpeted devolution and keeps most of the powers with the provincial government. No wonder Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf is agitating against it and even proposes to take it to the court.

Unfortunately, the position in Sindh is even worse and the Local Government Act in its present form would deprive the party holding the mandate for the city from exercising any real powers, and that happens to be the biggest problem and greatest misfortune of the city.

Mian Mohammed Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif, who have between them, the federal government and the province with the largest population in Pakistan, should be content with the ample power and resources under their control. They were generous enough to offer all help to other provinces in dealing with Dengue. In the same spirit, they should amend their local government act in a way that could ensure the formation of duly empowered local government in Punjab, with elections held on party basis. A similar act is required in Sindh with even greater urgency specially in view of the distinct rural/urban hold of the two major parties of the province. Perhaps there is a need to make another constitutional amendment to ensure the formation of duly empowered local governments in all provinces. This is one situation in which the Supreme Court should take suo motu notice in case the federation fails to do the needful since it concerns fundamental rights of people.

Mian Nawaz Sharif has assumed power not at a particularly opportune moment, and as time progresses, and the grace period, even extended, comes to an end, people will want results from him, and would be unwilling to wait eternally for the promises to be fulfilled. Unable to fight on too many fronts, it would make sense for Mian Nawaz Sharif to pass a Local Government Act that facilitates formation of an empowered local body controlling law enforcers as well.

Going a step further, by a constitutional amendment, he should ensure the same for all provinces for which he will have no problem getting the required two-third majority. Such an act will complete the process of devolution by taking democracy to the grass-roots level.

S.R.H. HASHMI,