THE President has extended the tenure of local bodies till the end of the year, instead of allowing the provinces to appoint bureaucratic administrators in place of the elected local councillors. This is to be welcomed, but the issue remains unresolved. It is strange to find objections being raised by democratically elected representatives at the provincial levels against the existing local bodies system. Granted it has its faults, but these should be corrected, rather than undoing the system all together. After all, we are now recognising the need to devolve power from the federation to the provinces, including substantial financial powers. So the principle of decentralisation of power and decision-making has been accepted as being beneficial for the country. The more democracy spreads to the grassroots level, the more the ordinary citizen will feel empowered and the more the marginalised people will begin to find a voice in the mainstream. The present local body system is far from perfect. But to replace it with non-elected bureaucrats is hardly the solution. Some positives of grassroots democracy can already be seen, such as the development work in cities like Karachi where the present mayor and his predecessor have done good work for the city and people have begun claiming Karachi as their own and volunteering their time for the city. In the rural areas, the local body system has tended to function less effectively because it has not been a truly grassroots model. The major shortcoming has been that union councils have had no financial powers to undertake any development in their areas. Instead, the indirectly elected district nazims have exercised dictatorial control over all resources. There is a need to financially and politically empower the union councils, including giving them financial decision making powers for their own development projects. The district councils should have more formal functions of coordination. Also, there is no reason why the district council nazims cannot be elected directly. The intent should be to empower people more at the grassroots level and the starting point for that has to be the union councils. By taking responsibility for their areas education, health and other such issues, one will see better conditions emerging because the councillors would be held directly responsible by their voters. What is required is a system of accountability that would prevent abuse of power at the local council levels, and which would prevent the DCOs and DPOs from being pressured politically. A strong democratic culture can only evolve from bottom up, not the other way round.