Our politicians all claim to be democratic and want it to flourish, but only while in opposition. When in power, instead of taking measures to nurse and nurture the institution of democracy, they start coming up with strange excuses and logics again in the name of serving people. For example, in the spirit of a government of the people, for the people, and by the people, local bodies are the most important grassroot level of democratic system.

A local government under a mayor or nazim works on development projects at local level. Surprisingly, in the last democratic stint (2008-2013), the provincial governments, especially Punjab, did not hold local body elections until ordered to do so by the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Even then, a halfhearted attempt was made only after restoring the draconian Deputy Commissioner based system, making the new local bodies just in name only. No power or funds were transferred, which largely remained with the provincial government.

Now the third consecutive democratic system in place in the country is in action. The governments are being formed at provincial level and minister for local government is being appointed in every province. However, to appoint minister for local governments without granting freedom and funds is against the very essence of democracy. It seems local bodies in the country are more for show and not real work.

I was surprised to see in the media that the newly appointed Sindh government local bodies minister visited certain areas of Karachi and vowed to undertake and complete many new projects. Yet again, if projects which fall under the jurisdiction of local bodies are completed by the provincial govt, why waste the money of having those and holding local body elections. This action undermines the concept of devolution of power to people and goes against the spirit of democracy.


Islamabad, August 29.