devolution
It's provinces'
turn now
Are provincial governments committed to genuinely
transfer powers to local governments?
By Irfan Mufti
The political transition that started after elections in 2008 does not seem to have settled as yet. The government that took over after 10 years of Musharaf's military rule was set with the task of fulfilling the promise of devolution. And it has delivered.
The recipe of devolution and decentralisation that Musharaf's team used was lopsided and incomplete, virtually thwarting provincial voices. It was rightly stated that without devolving powers from federal to provincial government genuine district governments cannot be established.

first
person

Planning stage
“Population Sciences is an ignored subject in Pakistan”
By Raza Khan
Dr. Durr-e-Nayab is working as Chief of Research, Demography, at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), Islamabad, and is also heading the Department of Population Sciences at the Institute. She did her PhD in Demography from the Australian National University (ANU), Canberra, Australia. Her areas of expertise include policy-oriented research on demographic issues, especially those related to changing age structure and its implications, health, urbanisation and class structure. Dr. Nayab has over 30 national and international publications to her credit. Her much-cited research on the demographic dividend in Pakistan, titled, “Demographic Dividend or Demographic Threat in Pakistan?” is considered a path-breaking work on the topic. TNS had an opportunity to interview her on various issues related to population in Pakistan. Excerpts follow:
The News on Sunday (TNS): What is, in your view, the most important reason for unmanageable and rapid growth of population in Pakistan?

Swat: what’s the way forward?
The area needs a lot more attention now than what it needed before
By Tahir Ali
During my visit to Swat last month, I talked to many people in Batkhela, Chakdara, Mingora, Madyan, Bahrain and Miandam. Not only in Swat but elsewhere too, lack of scientific approach, jumping to conclusions created by widely-held conspiracy theories and an acute absence of dialogue between the public and the establishment are not only hampering development of mutual trust but harming efforts to develop national consensus on anti-terrorism strategy.
There is military presence but other than several check-posts where military or police personnel register and identity destination of tourists, there is nothing uncommon. Hoteliers are required to register particulars of the guests and military vehicles patrol the roads casually. I think that presence of security is natural as Swat has been under tumultuous conditions for years. There is simply no room for complacency and negligence here.

investigation
Bringing it on record
A chronology of drone strikes in which civilians are claimed to have been killed
By Chris Woods
and
Rahimullah Yusufzai
A team of journalists led by Chris Woods has scruitinised reports and data relating to 116 US drone strikes on Pakistan, as part of an investigation into the US covert war on terror. These attacks occurred between August 23, 2010 and June 29, 2011.
Why these dates?
Anonymous US intelligence sources have been claiming for some time that no civilians have been killed in any Pakistan drone strike since last August. On June 29 President Obama’s senior adviser on counter-terrorism, John Brennan, stated that no civilians had been killed for nearly a year. He was the first senior official to go on the record with the claim.

Do we have an alternative?
Excessive use of chemical fertilizers has badly damaged agricultural land
By Aziz Omar
Many a local and international agricultural specialists and policy makers have extolled the virtues of “Green Revolution” while also separately lamenting the decline in land fertility levels and the rise in those of poverty. However, few have dared to connect the dots and acknowledge the capital and farm input-intensive Green Revolution as being one of the seminal factors for the ensuing poverty whirlpool.

learning
With a
difference
Some children have to be imparted
knowledge in a way different from the rest
By Ashba Kamran
According to one estimate, every third out of 10 children in Pakistan is a case for Special Educational Needs (SEN), a process that addresses the students’ individual differences and needs. These students have a reduced ability to learn independently or in an ordinary classroom.
They need an individually planned and systematically monitored arrangement of teaching procedures, adapted equipment and materials, accessible settings, and other interventions designed to achieve a higher level of personal self-sufficiency and success in school and community.

Freedom of press and
journalistic ethics — I
The media has a great responsibility to see that the news presented to the people is accurate and serves the interest of the people
By Justice Markandey Katju
Freedom of Press and Journalistic Ethics is a very important and relevant topic today. By the word ‘press’ I include the electronic media also, which has become very prominent and powerful around the world, including India.
A serious discussion on freedom of the press includes a discussion on the responsibility of the press too, particularly since it is so powerful.
In India, freedom of the press is considered part of the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution vide Brij Bhushan and another vs. The State of Delhi, AIR 1950 SC 129 and Sakal Papers (P) Ltd vs. Union of India, AIR 1962 SC 305, etc. However, as mentioned in Article 19(2), reasonable restrictions can be placed on this right in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.  Hence freedom of the media is not absolute freedom.

Next step
Provincial governments should come clean on the issue of local government
By Salman Abid
The question of local government system is very critical, especially after the rollback of some decisions by provincial government of Balochistan and now by Sindh. The government in Sindh restored local bodies’ ordinance 1979, also reviving the Sindh Land Revenue Act 1967 and Police Act 1861, including the commissionaire system.
The Sindh government says the local government system of 2000-01 failed to deliver and that the old system is much better at the larger level. The Punjab government of PMLN had also revived the Land Revenue Act 1967 and restored the commissionaire system in the province. Punjab government has serious reservations on local government ordinance 2000-01.

 

 

devolution
It's provinces'
turn now

The political transition that started after elections in 2008 does not seem to have settled as yet. The government that took over after 10 years of Musharaf's military rule was set with the task of fulfilling the promise of devolution. And it has delivered.

The recipe of devolution and decentralisation that Musharaf's team used was lopsided and incomplete, virtually thwarting provincial voices. It was rightly stated that without devolving powers from federal to provincial government genuine district governments cannot be established.

Basic disagreement on the local government plan of Musharraf's team was its nature of direct governance of federally-controlled district governments, bypassing provincial set-up. The present devolution from federal government to provinces is fully sanctified by constitutional legitimacy.

Demand for provincial autonomy has been as old as the federation itself and most of the regional parties that are now partners in provincial and federal set-up have been strong advocates of this autonomy. Political response was to initially sort out provincial character of devolution and 18th constitutional amendment has paved the way for this logical routing of devolution of power.

Needless to say, local government system did deliver on several counts in the eight years of its life. Several diagnostic studies confirmed effective service delivery and efficiency dividends besides acknowledging that a cadre of leadership emerged from grassroots, contributing in political spheres but provincial authorities were neglected in the process, hence a serious reaction from political parties, especially those that are now in control in provincial set-ups. After political governments took over at the federal and provincial levels, they found themselves in competition with local government system. It also created a situation where MNAs and MPAs were directly competing for the same development funds that were given to local councilors, Nazims and hosts of other players in local government plan.

Conventional politics in Pakistan is aligned to constituency-based funds, project locations, transfers, postings, allotments, jobs quotas, patwaris and police station controls. Families that were contesting for such power positions through elections found local councilors and nazims as their direct competitors. Several examples of strong personalities, leaving MNA and MPA positions to contest for Nazim position can be cited. But the situation has changed now as the Eighteenth Amendment has empowered the provinces by devolving 18 federal ministries and four revenue sources to the provinces.

This amendment has also set up conditions for devolution of powers from provinces to districts. Section 140A(1) under these amendments obligate provinces to legislate for establishing local government system and devolve political, administrative and financial responsibility and authority to the elected representatives of the local governments. It also suggests that elections to the local governments shall be held by the Election Commission of Pakistan. Another article has been inserted in the Constitution ensuring independent audit of local governments by the constitutionally-appointed Auditor General.

Such transparency and accountability mechanisms will improve functioning of the system and will increase public confidence too. The stage is now set for further devolution to local governments but the process is slow and murky as provincial governments do not seem committed to genuinely transfer powers to local governments.

But it will be unfair to the spirit of provincial empowerment if the likely challenges for the ongoing devolution effort are not fully assessed along with requisite remedial strategies. Federal to provincial devolution arrangements are still at a nascent stage. Mammoth institutional capacity and resources are needed to ensure that pre-requisites for provincial control and smooth functioning of devolved ministries are possible. At the start of Local Government Plan 2001 donors funding was available besides federal grants to district governments and local revenue sources. Similarly, technical guidance was given to district governments that provided the much-needed support to the new system. Likewise, the thrust of the earlier devolution was from the provincial to the district level, administrative and fiscal dependence of districts on provinces continued uninterrupted.

In other words, the residual province-district relationship was strong enough to respond to eventualities that could potentially disrupt the reform processes within the districts. Unfortunately, those support systems are not available to provincial governments to run the newly-devolved system and ministries.

In post Eighteenth Amendment scenario, an unclear functional relationship still exists between federal government divisions and provincial departments that could be relied on for addressing teething problems. The relationship is not based on mutually beneficial terms.

The federal divisions that are being devolved are not willing to support and facilitate provincial departments to effectively manage and run these devolved ministries and departments. This could have repercussions for the smooth transfer to provincial governments of material resources and the requisite technical capacities.

Another important issue is lack of resources for provincial government to bear the cost of setting up devolved ministries and departments. Provinces are required to bear their own expenses of additional responsibilities or mandate, that have further exacerbated their resource limitations. This task becomes increasingly difficult when no major funding is forthcoming from international donor agencies to support these devolution arrangements in provinces.

It is very important that for some time the required institutional support, human resources, technical guidance and additional funding for devolved functions comes from federal government, civil society and other important players in the new system. Such support in the long term will enable provinces to address the challenge of quality service delivery by developing in-house human resource capabilities and also to provide similar support to district governments.

Experience of local governments from 2001-08 suggests that the most daunting challenge for the provincial governments will be to enact regulations and enforce new legislation and policies. While service delivery challenges could be addressed with ease, any disruptions in regulatory functions can lead to serious setbacks. Delays or lapses in enforcement and regulations will create more distortions and hindrances for provincial governments.

The list can be longer and complex and it needs to be acknowledged that for provincial governments handling devolved portfolios in a vacuum of institutional guidance and technical support will be an uphill task. Direct service delivery might be easy to handle but policy formulation or regulatory responsibilities could be far more difficult.

It is now up to the provincial governments to establish local governments under provincial laws with elections and audit organised by independent bodies. However, the situation on the ground indicates that the provinces are acting to weaken rather than strengthen local governments, both in terms of functions and financial resources. Mostly, all provincial governments have reintroduced Commissionerate system and district councils have been suspended.

Commissioners have replaced elected Nazims and DCOs have been acting like the British era all-powerful deputy commissioners (Sindh has gone further down the road by enacting 1861 Police Act). During the floods of 2010 and other recent disasters these bureaucratic systems utterly failed to provide immediate response and relief.

A number of other changes have been introduced in the form, structure and core principles of the system. Several deviations are noted in the provincial legislations that were introduced while the local government plan 2001 was wrapped up in the face of political pressure from political parties. These insertions have changed the face and spirit of true devolution of powers and involvement of marginalised in the governance equation. Inordinate delays in holding local government elections is also a violation of section 140A of the constitution and provincial governments have to respond to this constitutional requirement too.

Ironically, provincial governments are playing the same role vis-à-vis district governments as federation has treated provinces for more than six decades. It needs to be understood at the level of provincial leadership that without bringing district governments in the governance equation their ability to deliver to ordinary citizens will remain limited. Citizens have experienced good or bad of the local government system and an unnecessary gap in restoring the system with improved functioning and accountability will make people dissatisfied with the system and provincial governments may lose legitimacy and credibility.

The urgency of successful transition of power and authority to locally-devolved system is paramount for ordinary citizen. Any delay or failure in further devolution and successful implementation of these reforms will shake the very structure of the federation in Pakistan.

 

The writer is Deputy Chief of South Asia Partnership Pakistan and Global Campaigner

[email protected]

 

first
person

Planning stage

Dr. Durr-e-Nayab is working as Chief of Research, Demography, at the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), Islamabad, and is also heading the Department of Population Sciences at the Institute. She did her PhD in Demography from the Australian National University (ANU), Canberra, Australia. Her areas of expertise include policy-oriented research on demographic issues, especially those related to changing age structure and its implications, health, urbanisation and class structure. Dr. Nayab has over 30 national and international publications to her credit. Her much-cited research on the demographic dividend in Pakistan, titled, “Demographic Dividend or Demographic Threat in Pakistan?” is considered a path-breaking work on the topic. TNS had an opportunity to interview her on various issues related to population in Pakistan. Excerpts follow:

The News on Sunday (TNS): What is, in your view, the most important reason for unmanageable and rapid growth of population in Pakistan?

Durr-e-Nayab (DN): Several reasons can be attributed to this rapid growth of population but to me the most important are those linked to the ill-conceived and narrow family planning strategies and the prevalence of gender bias in the country. Despite being a pioneer in the region by having a family planning programme as early as 1950s, Pakistan lags far behind other countries in managing its population. Sustained high fertility rates are pushing Pakistan to become the third most populous country in the world by the year 2050. The contraceptive use has stagnated at 30 percent for over a decade in the country and the idea, and more so the practice, of a small family size is mainly confined to the urban, educated women who are comparatively more empowered.

TNS: Keeping in view the social and politico-economic conditions in Pakistan what is the ideal or optimum level of population Pakistan should have in 2011?

DN: Recent estimates, made by keeping the country’s bio-capacity and economic output into consideration, show that Pakistan should optimally have had half the population it actually has in the year 2011. Despite such a stark figure of 50 percent of the population being above the optimum level, what is more worrisome is the fact that this estimate is based on the current low-economic output level in the country. Put in other words, if economic activity in the country picks up, leading to an obvious increase in the ecological footprint of its people, the optimum population will shrink even further. It is, therefore, imperative to lower the population growth rate to a sustainable level.

TNS: Do you agree that having more children should be a disincentive while distributing national resources instead of being an incentive as it has been in Pakistan like the distribution of the Federal Divisible Pool (FDP) on the basis of population?

DN: Population should not be the only criterion to distribute national resources. Such a pro-natal rationale for resource distribution can surely act as incentive for population growth, and at the same time act as an agent of bias during any enumeration exercise, like at the time of the national census where ethnic numbers take more meaning than they actually should. Factors like under-development/development and geographical size of the unit should also be taken into account while dividing federal resources.

TNS: To what extent women have started actively participating in decision-making as far as the size of the family is concerned?

DN: Gradual changes are taking place but, generally speaking, Pakistani women are still trapped in a web of dependency and subordination due to their low socio-economic position in society. This is reflected in fertility decisions as well where husbands’ preferences have a big influence on women’s reproductive behaviour. Husbands’ objection or lack of consent still features as a major reason for women’s non-use of contraceptives. It is worth mentioning here that less empowered women themselves may also prefer to have larger families, considering more children provide them the much-desired power which they lack otherwise. This re-emphasises the fact that fertility levels cannot be brought down without reducing the prevalent gender inequities.

TNS: Do you really think Pakistan does have a national strategy to have sustainable population growth?

DN: Sadly, I can’t say yes. All the Five-Year Plans in Pakistan, beginning with the First Five-Year Plan 1955-60 to the subsequent ones, articulated specific strategies and measures to reduce high population growth rate. Recent years also saw formulation of specialised National Population Policy in 2002 and again in 2010 but the total fertility rate still persists over 3.5 children per woman, which is high by all standards. The initial decline in fertility levels may be attributed more to the increase in age at marriage and the social and economic changes, coupled with urbanisation and modernisation than to the family planning programme. Irrespective of what these plans and strategies say, they primarily focus on the supply side of the issue ignoring the demand side. In many regions of the country the demand is not strong in the first place and, hence, improving the supply is not going to have any impact in reducing population rates. These plans also need to see population issues in the larger context, how they fit in the larger picture of growth and development in the country.

TNS: Do you think having more children pertains more to our misperceived social psychology than to physical needs of the family?

DN: Very much so. It is basically the perceived advantages that make parents believe that having more children would be beneficial. Some of these ideas they inherit from the preceding generations but some are based on certain personal experiences. For instance, it is not just a coincidence that fertility levels are high in areas having high mortality rates, like in the conflict zones. Parents psychologically feel secure by having more children than they actually wish for considering that some of them might die. In demographic literature, this psycho-social phenomenon is referred to as the ‘insurance effect’, where parents, taking into account the probability of mortality, over-produce children to ensure they are left with at least some surviving children. Fertility levels of Afghanistan and even the conflict prone regions of Pakistan are examples in this regard.

TNS: Has there been any research on how many families have improved their standard of living and financial base by having more children than the families having few children?

DN: Existing literature generally relates to the idea of smaller families with financial well-being. Even if we look at the surveys conducted in Pakistan, it is mainly the better-off households that have fewer children, with the number of children increasing with decreasing financial position.

TNS: What are the major impediments to population planning at the family, government, and societal levels in Pakistan?

DN: Long held views are difficult to change and large families have always been a norm in the country. Together with the idea that religion forbids fertility limitation such norms hinder efforts to manage population at the family and societal levels. With improving socio-economic conditions, especially literacy levels, individuals tend to develop a concept regarding number of children they would like to have, contrary to a fatalistic approach towards their family size. At the government level, it is the lack of a clear vision and planning that is the major impediment. A holistic approach is what is needed to manage population. Growing numbers cannot be managed by simply improving supply of contraceptives or increasing the number of Lady Health Workers (LHWs). An integrated and multi-faceted approach is needed that includes not just provision of health services but also of education and employment. There is a need to increase the opportunity cost of having children, which can be achieved by improving literacy level of females and getting them employed.

TNS: How important do you think is education regarding population planning at college and university level?

DN: Adolescents need to understand such issues and their education at college/university could be used for the purpose. There is, however, a dire need to have well-trained professionals in the field to impart this knowledge. Managing population is not just about family planning. It is about knowing every aspect of the population, be it health, mortality, morbidity, migration, fertility or education, employment, and environment, etc. All these aspects are cross-cutting and do not function in an isolated fashion. Hence, an integrated and holistic understanding is imperative. Population Sciences is an ignored subject in Pakistan and it is only recently that some institutions have introduced degree programmes in it. These programmes, however, would not be effective unless they have a well-rounded, up to date syllabus with a well-trained faculty.

TNS: One view is that population and demographic statistics in Pakistan have been doctored at the official level to conceal the actual rate of growth in order to get foreign loans and aid. If this is really the case what problems it has created?

DN: Data reliability is a concern in Pakistan that is not just confined to population and demographic statistics. Without reliable data, proper planning is not possible. People are the building blocks of any planning exercise, so how can we properly plan if we are fudging actual population figures? Without being over critical of the quality of available data there are issues of internal inconsistencies that may crop up while we handle any large-scale dataset in Pakistan. There are, however, techniques to indirectly evaluate and estimate such discrepancies.

TNS: If Pakistan is unable to control population growth rate effectively don’t you think the concerned departments should be held responsible for that?

DN: Lack of accountability is an issue in Pakistan and the population department is no exception. Like anyone who does not perform the population department should also be held responsible for not ably performing its job. There is something that we are doing wrong that needs to be corrected. The department needs to get a little innovative and move out of pursuing the archaic strategies that have not proved to be effective.

TNS: Don’t you think the department like the one you head could be more effectively used in the task of population planning?

DN: Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE) has an over fifty years’ tradition in demographic research and has professionals, trained at best universities of the world, having decades of experience in the field. They can, of course, contribute constructively in formulating more sound policies in managing population. For the last four years, PIDE is also offering a quality masters degree in Population Sciences. It is unarguably the best programme in the discipline in the country producing academically and practically-sound students having in-depth understanding of all aspects related to population. We are in the process of having collaboration with some international institutions to offer an even better quality degree with global recognition. With such training these students can also play an effective and constructive role in the future in understanding and alleviating the state of population in Pakistan.

 

 

Swat: what’s the way forward?

During my visit to Swat last month, I talked to many people in Batkhela, Chakdara, Mingora, Madyan, Bahrain and Miandam. Not only in Swat but elsewhere too, lack of scientific approach, jumping to conclusions created by widely-held conspiracy theories and an acute absence of dialogue between the public and the establishment are not only hampering development of mutual trust but harming efforts to develop national consensus on anti-terrorism strategy.

There is military presence but other than several check-posts where military or police personnel register and identity destination of tourists, there is nothing uncommon. Hoteliers are required to register particulars of the guests and military vehicles patrol the roads casually. I think that presence of security is natural as Swat has been under tumultuous conditions for years. There is simply no room for complacency and negligence here.

Many people in Swat acknowledge that extremists’ ability to occupy an area has been crushed but say they could stage a comeback anytime as their leadership has not been arrested or killed and those arrested have not been accounted so far. The fear is so pervasive that no one is ready to come on record against either of the parties.

Conflict of opinion is bound to occur in a problem where human beings with different backgrounds and analytical capability are involved. Conformity by all to official or militant account is impossible and the objective should be unity in diversity in an environment that allows freedom of thought and dissent encourages dialogue and avoids equating those with genuine reservations on the role and strategy of establishment with the anti-state elements.

If there are loopholes in the official account, the account of war on terror of the men in the street in Swat is no different from the rest of Pakistan where conflicting, often ridiculous, conspiracy theories are embraced as facts and opinions are formed on their basis.

As elsewhere, there is considerable confusion on the causes of the problem. To some Swatis, Taliban and terrorism are the products of Pakistan’s pro-American foreign policy but they also blame Mossad, RAW, CIA or Black Water for these acts. Again, many believe Taliban wanted to create state within the state, had the blessings of foreign agencies and the state did the right thing to crush them.

But some also accuse the civil and military establishment of being too lenient initially and narrate how the army and police stood silent when the Taliban killed the people. Yet, others exonerate them and think it was the negligence, inaction or purposeful silence of the MMA-led provincial government that provided the space and opportunity to the militants to expand their area of influence.

Many others admit they had committed the mistake of siding with the insurgents — near revolt-like situation in 1994 led by Sufi Muhammad, and the 2007-9 uprising led by Fazlullah.

Some Swat people are unhappy over the establishment’s double standards on counter-terrorism strategy. “In Pakhtun areas challengers of state’s writ are crushed while those in Punjab, which is more significant for Pakistan’s stability than the former, are tolerated and their extremist ideology is allowed to flourish,” says a man in his 40s, not wanting to be identified.

A few point out how the militants managed to collect huge quantities of sophisticated weapons and established training centres. Many think it strange that with so much patrolling and many security checkposts around, militants are still able to attack. “Where did the terrorists come from and go? There were hundreds of militants according to official estimates, tell us how many have been killed or captured,” says a resident from Chakdara.

Many others are thankful to the army and say army presence has saved many lives and properties from falling prey to mutual enmities created by suspicions of spying in the area. First, the Taliban killed many for being pro-establishment and then security agencies hunted the ‘anti-state’ actors and their abettors. The victims and their families in both cases thought someone in the neighbourhood to have spied on them. This created many local enmities.

Some people in the area think terrorists are being used as puppets by ‘agencies’ to take dollars and justify the huge/permanent military presence in the area. What struck me the most was that this mindset was even held by apparently educated people.

The state and its security apparatus needs to open up and allow dissent in its interactions with the people. Special teams of teachers and psychologists accompanied by men from civil and military agencies should visit seminaries and schools in the area and allow open questioning of their narrative. This way they would be able to apprise themselves of the real mindset of the people.

There should be no doubt that most of the insurgents have used lack of speedy justice to attract people to their agenda. Most of the Taliban cadres comprised young minds who are susceptible to violent agenda. They should be taught that reformation of societies through violent and militant ways results in more loss and acute anarchy in their midst. De-radicalisation programme for militant youngsters and their families is good but it needs to be replicated in Punjab.

The solution to the problems lies in our patient and judicious approach to problems, an equitable distribution of wealth in society, poverty alleviation and job opportunities.

The state should try to build a consensus against militancy in the country. The concept of ‘bad’ or ‘good’ militants needs to be given up. The political class should offer dialogue and amnesty to militants if they are ready to lay down arms and submit to the writ of the state.

The writer is a freelance journalist who blogs at:

http://tahirkatlang.wordpress.com

 

investigation
Bringing it on record

A team of journalists led by Chris Woods has scruitinised reports and data relating to 116 US drone strikes on Pakistan, as part of an investigation into the US covert war on terror. These attacks occurred between August 23, 2010 and June 29, 2011.

Why these dates?

Anonymous US intelligence sources have been claiming for some time that no civilians have been killed in any Pakistan drone strike since last August. On June 29 President Obama’s senior adviser on counter-terrorism, John Brennan, stated that no civilians had been killed for nearly a year. He was the first senior official to go on the record with the claim.

From our investigation we believe that while hundreds of militants and Taliban have been killed in the drone attacks, there are 25 strikes where civilians deaths have — or are highly likely to have — happened. It is of course very difficult to get a completely accurate picture about anything happening in Waziristan. Drone strikes, Pakistani military activity and militant attacks make this a dangerous region for journalists to operate in.

But while we cannot always be categorical, in at least 10 of the 25 cases we have identified, we understand that civilians were killed. The evidence shows that at least 45 civilians died in these strikes. Six of them were children under 16 years old.

How are we so sure?

As part of our drone investigation we have read thousands of reports relating to over 280 strikes within Pakistan over seven years. Although there are reports of civilian deaths in up to one in five cases, this may actually be a conservative estimate.

The data

Below are details of 10 strikes that are likely to have killed at least 45 civilians. There are also details of a further 15 strikes that raise significant questions. In these cases at least 65 civilian deaths have also been reported but are contested, or are reported by a single source only.

Ten strikes indicating civilian deaths:

September 8, 2010

Just 16 days after the CIA adopted its ‘No kill’ policy towards civilians, four children died in a drone strike in Danda Darpakhel. Din Mohammad, an Afghan refugee, survived the attack, but as our researchers have found:

His son, nephew and two daughters were killed. His son was a student of the Waziristan Cadet School in Miram Shah. The other children were below school-going age. Villagers in Danda Darpakhel insist Din Mohammad wasn’t a Taliban militant. His house was adjacent to a compound that served as hideout of the Haqqani Network fighters. Six militants in that compound were killed, but the missile strike also hit Din Mohammad’s house and killed the young children.

October 18, 2010

At the time, this strike on Sanzali, North Waziristan was hailed as a success by some local Pakistani intelligence officers. Up to seven alleged militants were killed and another six injured. Now we know that 10-year-old Naeem Ullah was also killed as a result of the strike. Naeem was in the next-door house, and was hit by a piece of flying shrapnel. Our researchers report that his death caused ‘outrage’ in his village. Pakistani lawyer Mirza Shahzad Akbar, who uncovered the case, told the Bureau: ‘Finding cases such as Naeem’s, which was not initially picked up by media, is always troubling. It suggests there may be many more civilian deaths than reports indicate.’

November 26, 2010

Karrulah Jan is one of a number of relatives trying to sue the CIA after his 17-year-old twin brother Sanaullah and three others were killed in a drone strike on a car last November. At the time, most media reports described the young men as ‘Taliban fighters’. Only later did it emerge that Sanaullah was an engineering student at the Government Degree College in Mir Ali. Family and friends insist that he had no interest in the Taliban.  His car was so destroyed that little remained of Sanaullah but his burnt student ID card Our researchers in Waziristan report that: The information is sketchy and sometimes contradictory about the three others killed in the drone strike. Their names couldn’t be ascertained, perhaps because they weren’t from Pir Killay village – the location of the attack.

December 6, 2010

A missile fired from a CIA drone hit a vehicle as it passed through the village of Khushali in North Waziristan. Two alleged militants died, though at least one escaped into a nearby shop. As CNN and others reported at the time, the drone then fired into the shop, killing the suspect and two civilians – the shopkeepers. More were injured by the blast. Some later reports claimed that all those inside the shop were militants.

December 17, 2010

Multiple US drone strikes pummelled various alleged militant camps in the Khyber Agency. Pakistani newspaper The News reported that among up to 34 alleged militants killed in the strikes are at least two civilians, including one who was being held prisoner by the rebels. Our researchers in the tribal areas report: Two non-militant civilians were also killed, but only one was a prisoner. He belonged to the Kukikhel sub-tribe of the Afridi, but he remained unidentified as his body was mutilated. The other civilian killed by the missiles was Raza Khan, a 50-year old man from the Sepah sub-tribe of the Afridi tribe who had come to the Lashkar-i-Islam headquarters in Sandana to request Commander Mangal Bagh to release one of his relatives being held by him. Another prisoner was wounded in the attack and several other prisoners escaped from the private prison, set up in a cave, due to the confusion in the aftermath of the drone strike. Almost all of them were subsequently re-arrested and their fate remains unknown.

March 11, 2011

After initially destroying a moving vehicle and killing suspected militants in Khesoor village, North Waziristan, CIA drones returned to fire on rescuers, killing a further five. Although some Pakistan intelligence sources claimed the rescuers were also militants, locals stated that all the dead rescuers were civilians from the village. Our researchers in Waziristan report: Those killed in the first strike were suspected militants, but the second attack took the lives of mostly civilians. The five confirmed civilians who were killed were identified as Jamal, Noor Azam, Farman, Jalal and another Farman. All five belonged to the Toorikhel Wazir tribe.

March 17, 2011

Coming just two days after the release of CIA contractor Raymond Davis from a Lahore jail after he killed two locals, this disastrous US drone strike brought relations between the two nations to a new low. Uniquely Pakistan’s president, prime minister and army chief all publicly condemned this attack. US missiles struck a tribal council meeting or loy jirga in Datta Khel, North Waziristan. Although 11 Taliban were reported by some killed in the attack, between 19 and 30 civilians also died, including tribal elders and local policemen. Our researchers in Waziristan told us: Several members of the government-managed and armed Khassadar force were present at the jirga because the government had got involved in resolving a dispute between two contractors who mined chromite in the nearby hills. One of the contractors, Malik Daud, aged 45, was killed in the drone attack along with members of his family.

April 22, 2011

A pre-dawn attack in Spinwan, North Waziristan by two drones on a house and guesthouse killed an estimated 25 people, including reports of at least three women and four or five children, as the BBC and many others reported. In an unprecedented move, an unknown ‘US official’ told CNN at the time: ‘There is no evidence to support that claim [of civilian casualties] whatsoever.’ Our own researchers in Waziristan report: Five suspected militants, all locals from North Waziristan, were killed in this attack. Though it was reported initially that some women were killed in this strike, later it was confirmed that no women had been killed. But one 12-year-old boy named Arif was killed in the attack.  So the death toll was six including five militants and one civilian.

May 6, 2011

In the first strike following Osama bin Laden’s death, an attack on a religious school (and suspected militant hideout) in Datta Khel, North Waziristan also hit a nearby unrelated roadside restaurant and a house. Many were killed in the attack. Our researchers in Waziristan report:

The total number of people killed was 18. Six were civilians while the rest were stated to be militants.

June 15, 2011

Just two weeks after this strike killed four civilians, John Brennan claimed in his speech that none were dying in Pakistan drone strikes. Despite initial claims that up to eight Taliban died, different facts soon emerged. Our researchers in Waziristan report: Four civilians belonging to the Zangbar family of the Toorikhel Wazir tribe were killed. Those killed included Shahzada, who was a student and was the grandson of a tribal elder Malik Shahzada, the 50-year-old head of the Toorikhel Wazir tribe. Malik Shahzada has shifted to Peshawar with his family due to fear of the local Taliban. How could he or his slain grandson be Taliban when the family had to leave their ancestral village and shift to Peshawar to avoid harm at the hand of the Taliban? The other innocent civilians killed in this attack were Akram Shah, the driver, Umar Khan who owned a car spare parts shop, and Tariq who ran the medical store.  The four civilian deaths caused so much anger that in Miram Shah a big protest was held against the US drone attacks and many people demanded jihad against America.

Fifteen strikes requiring further investigation

September 15, 2010

Villagers flee in panic as multiple drones attack two housing compounds before dawn, killing at least 14, including civilian rescuers, according to at least one local official. Darga Mandi, North Waziristan.

September 19, 2010

A vehicle was destroyed and four suspected Haqqani militants killed. Five local welfare workers were also reported dead when a separate van was hit. Deegan, Datta Khel, North Waziristan.

September 20, 2010

An attack killed two or three alleged militants on a motorbike, and then killed two others retrieving the bodies. Darazinda, North Waziristan. Reports vary on whether the rescuers were militants or civilians.

October 4, 2010

An attack in Mir Ali killed eight German and one British alleged militants. Al Jazeera’s Kamal Hyder(who has previously worked with CNN and Time magazine) reported that three women and children also died. He later told the Bureau:

‘I have spent the past six years covering this region and travelled into the area on numerous occasions. As such I have developed excellent links with the locals. They have proved to be an invaluable source of information. The locals know their area well and whenever an attack takes place most people know which place has been hit and who are the victims… To date our sources have proven their worth and their information has been quite accurate.’

November 13, 2010

A car was destroyed in an attack on alleged militants in Miram Shah, North Waziristan. Four people were killed. Geo TV and Long War Journal reported that all of the dead may have been civilians.

November 16, 2010

Up to 20 alleged militants were killed in an attack on a car and a housing compound in Ghulam Khan, North Waziristan. Al Jazeera reported that ‘women and children’ were killed.

November 21, 2010

Abdur Rehman’s house in Khaddi, North Waziristan was attacked along with a car. Six to nine people were reported killed, including three local tribesmen (possibly civilians).

December 14, 2010

Four alleged Afghan militants or village residents (depending on reports) were killed in Spalaga, North Waziristan. A car was destroyed.

December 28, 2010

Following a previous strike on a truck, locals attempted to retrieve the dead. Then drones attacked again, killing between four and 12 people. Officials said civilians were among the dead (ABC News).

January 1, 2011

After waiting some time, rescuers attempted to retrieve the dead and injured at a destroyed house in Mandi Khel, but were attacked. Four to six people were killed.

January 7, 2011

A house and a motorbike were attacked in Ghar Laley, North Waziristan. Between four and six alleged militants were killed. The Pakistan Observer reported that villagers described all of the dead as civilians.

February 21 2011

Eight to 11 civilians or alleged militants were reported killed and 10 injured in strike on a house and car in Malik Ashdar, North Waziristan. Earlier in the day locals had fired on up to a dozen drones operating in the area.

March 8, 2011

An attack in Landidog, South Waziristan killed at least five people when the house of Fazal Karim was destroyed. According to locals all the dead were civilians – though some local Pakistani intelligence sources contested that claim.

June 6, 2011

Linked attacks on a seminary and compound in Wana, South Waziristan killed up to 19 people. CNN and others reported that seven civilians may have been among the dead.

June 20, 2011

Five suspected militants initially died in Noor Alam, Kurram Agency when a car was destroyed. As locals attempted to give aid, drones killed a further two.

 

Rahimullah Yusufzai  is resident editor of the Pakistani English daily The News International, a senior analyst for GeoTV, and a correspondent with the BBC World Service. He has been covering the Afghan conflict since 1978 and is based in Peshawar.

 

Chris Woods is an award-winning London-based investigative journalist and documentary film maker. He specialises in world affairs, notably the global war on terror. For many years he was based at the BBC, working as a senior producer on flagship programmes Newsnight and Panorama. More recently, he has written and directed major documentaries for Channel 4?s Dispatches and for Al Jazeera.  He has been with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism since spring 2010.

 

Additional reporting by David Pegg and Alice Ross.

 

Do we have an alternative?

Many a local and international agricultural specialists and policy makers have extolled the virtues of “Green Revolution” while also separately lamenting the decline in land fertility levels and the rise in those of poverty. However, few have dared to connect the dots and acknowledge the capital and farm input-intensive Green Revolution as being one of the seminal factors for the ensuing poverty whirlpool.

One of the despicable legacies of this phenomenon, which was purported to have fed our country’s hungry populace, is the dependency on the production and use of chemical fertilizers.

The section on environment in the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2009-2010, after conceding that poverty in the country is fundamentally linked to environmental degradation goes on to elucidate that this is due to poverty, actually impeding environmental rehabilitation.

The burning question that arises is how poverty can be an impediment to the environment, when poverty itself is borne out of environmental degradation which, in turn, is subsequent to misuse of natural resources, especially in Pakistan’s context. Pakistan government’s document, the Mid-term Development Framework 2005-10, explicitly recognises that environmental degradation is taking place due to mostly mismanagement of water and other natural resources on part of the designated authorities.

The scenario of diminishing access to water and other natural resources is exacerbated by unplanned urban and industrial expansion as well as illegal disposal of hazardous wastes. “Running on Empty: Pakistan’s Water Crisis” the 2009 publication taken out by the US-based Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars explains that “Pakistani water crisis is a historical legacy of bad policies, mis-governance, and corruption.” Surely then, primary hurdle on the road to an environmentally sustainable recovery should be to take the “robber barons” to task and give the control of and direct access to natural resources back to the people of the land.

Interestingly, report on the environment sector contained in the successive 2010-2011 Economic Survey of Pakistan makes cursory acknowledgement of one of the root causes of poverty as being land degradation that encompasses deforestation and depletion of solid fertility. It rightly attributes the “negative nutrient balances” to the deficiency of phosphorous and potassium due to extensive use of nitrogenous and phosphate fertilizers.

The result; more than half of all arable land in Pakistan has production levels that have been whittled down to one-third of their values corresponding with the soils’ true biological potential.

Adding more fuel to the raging fire of the phenomenon of declining land fertility due to fertilizer use being an instigator for poverty is another sinister economic policy debacle. Natural gas, which is not only a key input component of fertilizer production but also serves as the primary fuel for respective production plants, is all set to undergo a doubling of rates. In the aftermath of this year’s federal budget, the Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet is suggesting a 100 percent hike in the natural gas rates that the fertilizer industry would have to incur.

According to the petroleum minister, this will ensure that “all the country would have to equally share the gas load shedding”. Intriguingly, analysts in various securities firms in Pakistan have concluded that the price of a typical bag of Urea-based fertilizers would undergo a 20 percent increase, whereby transferring the entire penalty of gas price hike to the consumers, which are the already impoverished agrarian masses.

This year has already seen official Urea fertilizer prices increase by more than 50 percent from last year’s one of Rs850. However, due to the shortfall in Urea production this year, many farmers have had to bear the burden of doubly inflated costs in acquiring a single bag of this fertilizer in the black market.

Another more intriguing revelation made by the securities firms analysts is that certain fertilizer companies will actually be making more money in the process.

Pakistani farmers had already been serving as the hapless victims due to being subjected to the injections of synthetic fertilizers, when off late they have been exposed to a more nutrient-hungry agricultural changeling. The genetically engineered Bt-cotton consumes more than twice the amount of urea for every acre cultivated with it as compared to non-Bt cotton, whereby costing the cotton farmer twice as much to grow the former this time around, especially with the increased urea prices . With more than 90 percent of the country’s cotton growing area already under Bt cotton cultivation, no surprises that socioeconomic conditions would take a nosedive.

Environmental and socioeconomic catastrophe that we have on our hands today is due to the parasitic, fertilizer-intensive farming modes which though we may have accepted unknowingly, need to be dropped like a bad habit.

 

learning
With a
difference

According to one estimate, every third out of 10 children in Pakistan is a case for Special Educational Needs (SEN), a process that addresses the students’ individual differences and needs. These students have a reduced ability to learn independently or in an ordinary classroom.

They need an individually planned and systematically monitored arrangement of teaching procedures, adapted equipment and materials, accessible settings, and other interventions designed to achieve a higher level of personal self-sufficiency and success in school and community.

A large number of students in Pakistan drop out from schools every year. These children can not catch up mainstream education system, either in public or private sector.

Being a mother of a child with learning difficulties and operating an NGO to deal with such other children in the society, I have found that majority of such children are kept aloof by the parents. No one, other than a maid or a few servants, is allowed to visit him. So much so, a good number of parents even hesitate in owning such children in general public.

Since no proper education system is being devised by the government to deal with learning difficulties of such children, the number of such handicapped children is rising with every passing day.

From the platform of my organization, I am performing the duty of ringing the alarm bell every year for the government policymakers, urging them to allocate separate funds for developing schools to deal with children possessing learning difficulties.

Unfortunately, my repeated calls are falling on deaf ears, but I will not lose heart and keep on knocking at the doors of concerned policymakers until they are ready to consider the needs of such children.

Generally, majority of children deserving specialised education face challenges with learning and communication, besides emotional and behavioral disorders, physical disabilities, and developmental disorders. Students with these kinds of special needs are likely to benefit from additional educational services such as different approaches to teaching, use of technology, a specifically adapted teaching area, or resource room.

It is very difficult to identify children with special education needs. Some are easily identified from their medical history. However, students whose identification is less obvious, two primary methods have been used for identifying them: the discrepancy model and the response to intervention model.

The discrepancy model depends on the teacher noticing that the students’ achievements are noticeably below what is expected. The response to intervention model advocates earlier intervention.

In Pakistan, the at-risk students (those with educational needs that are not associated with a disability) are often placed in classes with students who have disabilities. Placing at-risk students in the same classes as students with disabilities may impede the educational progress of people with disabilities. The practice of inclusion (in mainstream classrooms) has been criticised by advocates and some parents of children with special needs because some of these students require instructional methods that differ dramatically from typical classroom methods.

It is not possible to deliver effectively two or more very different instructional methods in the same classroom. As a result, the educational progresses of students who depend on different instructional methods to learn often fall even further behind their peers.

Some parents, advocates, and students have concerns about the eligibility criteria and their application. In some cases, parents and students protest the students’ placement into special education programmes. For example, a student may be placed into special education programmes due to a mental health condition such as obsessive compulsive disorder, depression, anxiety, panic attacks or ADHD, while the student and his parents believe that the condition is adequately managed through medication and outside therapy. In other cases, students whose parents believe they require the additional support of special education services are denied participation in the programme based on the eligibility criteria.

Japanese students with special needs are placed in one of four different school arrangements: special schools, special classrooms with another school, in resource rooms (which are called tsukyu), or in regular classrooms. Special schools are reserved for students whose severe disabilities cannot be accommodated in the local school. They do not use the same grading or marking systems as mainstream schools, but instead assess students according to their individualised plans. Special classes are similar, and may vary the national curriculum as the teachers see fit.

In England and Wales, for instance, the acronym SEN for Special Educational Needs denotes the condition of having special educational needs, the services which provide the support and the programmes and staff which implement the education. In England SEN PPS refers to the Special Educational Needs Parent Partnership Service. SENAS is the special educational needs assessment service, which is part of the Local Authority.

In the US, all special-needs students receive an Individualised Education Programme (IEP) that outlines how the school will meet the student’s individual needs. The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) requires that students with special needs be provided with a Free Appropriate Public Education in the Least Restrictive Environment that is appropriate to the student’s needs. Government-run schools provide special education in varying degrees from the least restrictive settings, such as full inclusion, to the most restrictive settings, such as segregation in a special school.

The education system in Pakistan needs to look at the developed countries, where educators are modifying teaching methods and environments so that the maximum number of students is served in general education environments.

A revolutionary change in Pakistan’s education system is an urgent need of the hour and special education programme should be customised to address each individual student’s unique needs. The students with special needs should receive services in varying degrees based on their individual needs. In the United States, Canada, and the UK, educational professionals used the initialism IEP when referring to a student’s individualised education plan.

The writer is Secretary General of Foundation for Rehabilitation & Education of Special Children, running three campuses for children with special educational needs in Lahore, Rawalpindi and Sargodha with the name of Green Meadows.

 

 

Freedom of press and
journalistic ethics — I

Freedom of Press and Journalistic Ethics is a very important and relevant topic today. By the word ‘press’ I include the electronic media also, which has become very prominent and powerful around the world, including India.

A serious discussion on freedom of the press includes a discussion on the responsibility of the press too, particularly since it is so powerful.

In India, freedom of the press is considered part of the freedom of speech and expression guaranteed by Article 19(1)(a) of the Constitution vide Brij Bhushan and another vs. The State of Delhi, AIR 1950 SC 129 and Sakal Papers (P) Ltd vs. Union of India, AIR 1962 SC 305, etc. However, as mentioned in Article 19(2), reasonable restrictions can be placed on this right in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, public order, decency or morality or in relation to contempt of court, defamation or incitement to an offence.  Hence freedom of the media is not absolute freedom.

The importance of freedom of the press lies in the fact that for most citizens the prospect of personal familiarity with newsworthy events is unrealistic. In seeking out the news the media, therefore, acts for the public at large. It is the means by which the people receive free flow of information and ideas essential to intelligent self-governance, that is, for democracy.

For a proper functioning of democracy it is essential that the citizens are informed about the news in various parts of the country and abroad, in order to form rational opinions.  A citizen cannot be expected personally to gather news enabling him to form such opinions. Hence the media plays an important role in a democracy and it serves as an agency of the people for gathering news for them.  It is for this reason that the freedom of the press has been emphasized in all democratic countries, while it was not permitted in feudal or totalitarian regimes.

In India, the media has played a historical role in providing information to the people about social and economic evils. The media has informed the people about the tremendous poverty in this country, the suicides of farmers in various States, the honour killings in many places, the corruption, etc., and for this the media in India deserve kudos.

However, the media has also a great responsibility to see that the news presented to the people is accurate and serves the interest of the people.

If the media conveys false news which may harm the reputation of a person or a section of the society it may do great damage since the reputation of a person is a valuable asset.  Even if the media subsequently corrects this, the damage may be irreparable.   Hence care should be taken by the media to carefully investigate any news before reporting it.

I know of a case where the photograph of a High Court Judge who is known to be totally upright was shown in a well known TV channel along with that of a reputed criminal.  The allegation against the Judge was that he had acquired some land at a low price misusing his office, but my own inquiries (in which I met and questioned that Judge and many others) revealed that he had acquired the land not in any discretionary quota but in the open market at the market price.

Also, sometimes the media presents twisted or distorted news, which may contain an element of truth but also an element of untruth.  This, too, should be avoided because a half truth can be sometimes more dangerous than a total lie.  Also, the media should avoid giving a slant to the news, and avoid sensationalism and yellow journalism.  Only then will it get the respect of the people and fulfill its true role in the democracy.

Recently reports have been published of purchased news which means someone pays some money to the newspaper and gets something favourable to him published.  If this is correct it is most improper and the editors should curb this strongly.

Media comments in pending cases especially in criminal cases where the life or liberty of a citizen is involved is a delicate issue and should be carefully considered.  After all, Judges are human beings and it may sometime be difficult for them not to be influenced by such news.  The British law is that when a case is sub-judice no comment can be made on it, whereas the American law permits such comment.  We may have to take an intermediate view because while on the one hand we have a written Constitution containing the freedom of speech in Article 19(1)(a) which the British unwritten Constitution does not, at the same time the life and liberty of a citizen is a fundamental right guaranteed by Article 21 and should not lightly be jeopardized.  Hence a balanced views has to be taken on this issue.

Apart from the above, it is also necessary to mention that very often the media publishes correct news but places too much emphasis on frivolous news such as the lives or activities of film stars, models or cricketers, etc. and gives very little prominence to much more important issues which are basically socio-economic in nature.

(The speech was delivered on 4.9.2010 at the National Media Seminar 2010 at Thalassery, Kerala organised by the Barrister M.K. Nambyar Trust.)

 

The writer is a Judge, Supreme Court of India

(to be continued)

 

Next step

The question of local government system is very critical, especially after the rollback of some decisions by provincial government of Balochistan and now by Sindh. The government in Sindh restored local bodies’ ordinance 1979, also reviving the Sindh Land Revenue Act 1967 and Police Act 1861, including the commissionaire system.

The Sindh government says the local government system of 2000-01 failed to deliver and that the old system is much better at the larger level. The Punjab government of PMLN had also revived the Land Revenue Act 1967 and restored the commissionaire system in the province. Punjab government has serious reservations on local government ordinance 2000-01.

After what has happened recently, the civilian bureaucracy will strengthen once again and public representatives will become weak in the country’s politics. This may also close the debate of decentralisation form provinces to the districts. This attitude also reflects interests of the political elite on decentralization.

The question is if the previous system and local bodies of 1979 is a good case study in country’s history and people enjoyed public services with the support of more accountable and transparent system why we need a new local government system in the country?

Mushrraf’s local government ordinance is criticised due to his agenda of getting political mileage and public support through local institutions. No doubt, in Pakistan, every military dictator used the local bodies weapon against democratic forces and tried to create a new political class through these institutions.

National and provincial governments and parties criticise Mushrraf’s local government system on the one hand but want to revive Ziaul Haq’s local bodies ordinance 1979 on the other.

Interestingly but unfortunately, no single political government introduced local government system in the country. Do democratic political governments have the will to form local government? If every political party is serious about devolution at the local level why are we justifying political forces against democratic practices at the grass root level? If the present provincial government has reservations on the devolution plan why the elected and democratic government failed to introduce new local government system?

Still, provincial governments are reverting back to 1979’s local bodies instead of going for new local body law or act. We all know very well that the local government election in every province is delayed on political grounds.

Why don’t we evaluate the previous bureaucratic system and see that the system did not fulfill people’s expectations. Bureaucrats are not accountable to the public. A huge gap between bureaucrats and public at the local level is very obvious and people always have serious reservations about it. Elected local government representatives can be easily approached by the general public.

We should admit that without local government and accountable and transparent governance system in the country the crisis of governance can never be resolved. Secondly, the issues of marginalised groups can only be addressed through local public representatives and not through bureaucrats and non-elected people.

Provincial and national assembly members seem to be less interested in doing legislation. The Constitution of Pakistan, Article 140-A (1) provides protection to the local government, saying, “Each province shall, by law, establish a local government system and devolve political, administrative and financial responsibility and authority to the elected representatives of the local government.”

I am not saying that the 2000-01 local government system was an ideal system but without giving local autonomy the question of provincial autonomy can never be addressed politically.

Any system of governance at the local level should be finalised after consultation with all major stakeholders — public representatives, common people, or bureaucrats. It should also be ensured that local development comes through local government and not through provincial and national members.

There should be a ban on development funds for MPAs and MNAs and members of parliament should only focus on legislation and policy-making for national development. The government should ensure local government elections in the country on an urgent basis and avoid any delaying tactics. Again, the question arises if our leadership has learnt from past mistakes?

 

The writer is a political analyst and human rights campaigner. He can be reached at [email protected]

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