States are formed for promoting the economic, social and environmental well being of its citizens. The most effective means to achieving this end is through democracy at all levels. Pakistan, a federation, is today a constitutional democracy in full bloom - every citizen is represented at federal and provincial levels through representatives in National and Provincial Assemblies and Senate, and equally important, in his/her local area and community by elected Union Councils. To any politician championing rights of people, democracy at all these three levels should be sacrosanct and untouchable. Yet, like many other contradictions in our society, one of the burning issues of the day is the abolition of this system of local government. It surprises me how any person in this day can advise going back to local governance by unelected bureaucrats, working under provincial governments, when the entire world has recognised that decentralisation is the only way in which the fundamental rights of the citizens can be protected. I would go so far as to say that any politician propagating upholding rule of law, justice and democratic norms would appear to be insincere if at the same time he is against the current system of local governance. It is now recognised in every civilised country that Parliaments representing the nation and state legislatures cannot and should not be dealing with issues which are related to and affect people at town level. Why indeed should MNAs or MPAs, who have been elected to debate and decide issues like Pakistan's security, foreign policy and affairs of provinces and make laws regarding commerce, industry, law and order, police and property rights, to name a few, be involved in providing sewerage pipes to a locality or constructing pavements for them. This is why 1973 constitution provides in Article 140(A) that each province shall, by law, establish a local government system and devolve political, administrative and financial responsibility and authority to elected representatives of local government. National matters are important but the citizen is mainly concerned with his living standards and personal welfare within his community. It is fundamental to his welfare that he has access to an administration which is responsible to him and can provide direct relief and services to him. In order for this to happen and for the local government to be accountable, the administration has to be elected by the electorate. It is in this sense that a democratically elected local government has advantages and benefits to the communities which are unsurpassed. It is through this system, where local government is answerable to the electorate, that people can ensure that not only due services, which they deserve, are provided to all sections of society, including the marginalised and poor, but the administration is made effective, schemes are implemented quickly and their problems are resolved in a comparatively non-politicised manner. By electing their own representatives through this citizens gain sense of "self-participation" and become, as much as possible, "masters of their own destiny." Ultimately democracy at the grassroot level promotes bonding and nationhood. Pakistan has in this regard however had a turbulent history where political governments and bureaucracy have refused to give up their powers of local governance to the people. Although attempts to decentralise local government was made in 1972 and 1975 with the promulgation of Local Government laws but no elections were held practically under them. Yet another law (Punjab Local Government Ordinance, 1979) was passed under General Ziaul Haq and indeed two local body's elections were held during this time, but eventually the then chief minister of Punjab issued a notification in 1993 and dissolved the unions. The dispute went to the courts and eventually the Supreme Court, recognising the importance and benefit of this system, directed the provincial government to restore all local bodies by February 1997. The ultimate blow was struck when in order to circumvent orders of the Supreme Court the law was repealed and it appeared that bureaucracy and politicians combined had achieved their goal. Good things however cannot always be denied to the people, and thanks to President Musharraf, the Punjab Local Government Election Ordinance, 2000 was promulgated under which an elaborate system of local governance, similar in many respects to that operating in other countries, but tailored to suit Pakistan's needs, was established. Under this law real elections to local bodies have fortunately been continuously held. In order to avoid the fate of previous local bodies, a constitutional protection has also been given to this law to the effect that no one can alter, repeal or amend the same without the approval of the president. Why is it that this system, which has obvious advantages, is being opposed at the provincial level today. One of the reasons for this, it is said is that the success of local government system is intolerable to present Punjab government because it is a feather in Musharraf's cap. It would be unfortunate if the Punjab leadership, which is projecting itself as the party of democracy, would destroy an institution simply because it was established during Musharraf's regime. If however this is the reason, then I may remind the provincial rulers that Charter of Democracy itself very clearly specifies that politics of vendetta must come to an end, and that institutions have to be saved rather than destroyed. Local body system is something that is the need of the hour, and irrespective of whose baby it is, all stakeholders must use their best endeavours to ensure its success for the sake of the people. It is said that the current system has failed and nazims are primarily involved in corruption because of which the people are being deprived of basic necessities. There may be some truth in allegations of corruption, but to say the system has failed is not entirely correct. If there are a few bad eggs it does not mean that the system as a whole is bad. No one abolishes institutions simply because some people within it are involved in wrong doing. The way to tackle corruption is what CM Shahbaz Sharif is indeed doing, which is to have the accounts audited and to appoint forensic experts to unearth any misdeeds, and then to prosecute all involved to the fullest extent of law. Indeed this cleansing needs to be applied to everyone in public office across the board. However this does not mean that the system can be abandoned altogether. Just like nothing gives the right to armed forces to abolish Parliament and impose martial law on grounds of corruption of a few, no person can abolish the local body system on the ground that some elected representatives are corrupt. The real reasons seem to be twofold. Firstly some bureaucracy is bitter that under the new law it has been relegated to the position of being mere administrators and no longer control of finances. Under the old system the commissioner downward were the ultimate authorities for local governance and enjoyed all perks and advantages associated with it. There is no denying that these officers worked with diligence and effectively, perhaps even more so than the present nazims, but that system is now a relic of the past because it does not involve participation of people through elections. We need to move forward with times. Like everything new, it takes time to fully mature, and given more years and few more elections, the people will themselves be able to reform and cleanse their own governments of undesirable nazims and officers. The desire of some bureaucrats to have this system abolished and to restore the old system would therefore be a step backward. The other major force behind the move to abolish this local government system are certain MPAs who resent that the power of using the funds for implementing development schemes has been taken away from them. Indeed it is believed that previously some MPAs chose to contest elections only to enable them to utilise this money. To me MPAs are VIPs who have far more important things to do like making laws and dealing with issues at the provincial level than to implement local development schemes. The motivation behind those who want the old status to revive is to me against national interest as it is now well understood that it is unacceptable for members of a state legislature to get involved in local governance. Local governments cannot operate unless they are truly independent from federal and provincial governments, and independence can only be ensured if finances are in their control. Under existing structure funds for local governance are available to the unions, and they are the sole judges of where to spend it. Their accountability to the electorate ensures that they spend this money efficiently in the best interest of the community, or else they will be voted out in the next elections. Recently an ill-advised attempt was made by the government to re-impose provincial will over union councils by taking over the budget of the union council and giving it to the secretary local government. Luckily for the system, the Lahore High Court, in an elaborate and celebrated judgement has declared this step as unlawful. In revamping its local body system, Pakistan is for once ahead of India also, and there is a strong Indian lobby which desires India to follow Pakistan's example. Why should we give up a system which others are wanting to follow? Pakistan has enough problems at his hands. The coming of Obama may mean that there are certain important policies of the US which would change in Pakistan's favour. This is the time to utilise and take advantage of all such changes. This is therefore also the time to strengthen the local body so that the local problems of the people can be left to be sorted out and resolved at that level rather than decentralise control and get involved in another constitutional crises. In the end it is the people of Pakistan who will suffer. Please desist. The writer is an advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan E-mail: