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Post Devolution Of Powers And Responsibilities



Main objectives of Devolution of Powers and Responsibilities were decentralization of political, financial and administrative powers; assigning responsibilities to the quarters it actually belonged; discourage the power brokers and alleviate problems of the general public. The National Reconstruction Bureau published the summary of its objectives on 24th March 2000, starting as following:

“Pakistan’s political history is checkered with many attempts at delivering a better life for the people. The non use, misuse and abuse of our political and administrative systems have lead to a profound institutional crisis. The political system has deteriorated as a result of horse trading and cronyism, the politics of posting and transfers in the bureaucracy and corruption in licences, contracts, taxes etc. The political and administrative systems have collapsed.”

In countries where devolution is in vogue, it was gradually evolved, but in Pakistan it was imposed overnight. Therefore, problems and conflicts are arising which need to be addressed; but, instead of redressing the government tries to defend the existing paradigm. Different functionaries at different levels are not clear about there role in the new system. It has created difference between the local governments and provincial governments and between provincial governments and the Federal Government. Different stake holders have different views, depending on their vested interests. The badly hit District Management Group is bitterly criticizing it and trying to fail the system which did away with the institution of Deputy Commissioner. Police department did not want to be subordinated to district nazims. Despite, introduction of Police Order 2002 and Public Safety Commission which made the police responsible to Nazim to the extent of law and order does not seem to be working well.

The Legislators felt that the local government deprived them of their role in development of the areas. So many of them resigned from their positions and contested elections to become nazims. The nazims are of the view that the elected representatives of provincial and national assemblies should stick to their role of legislation only.

Historical perspective

A few decades ago, governance remained limited to collection of revenue, maintenance of law and order and provision of limited number of services, like railway, telecommunication, health education, etc. As the world started shrinking into a global village, responsibilities of the state became complex and numerous.

Even in Mughal era, institutions like ‘mansabdari’ and ‘revenue system’ were introduced to improve administration of the subcontinent. During the period of Akbar, judicial and executive functions of the state were separated. In the field of revenue collection, fixed proportions of share of the government out of agricultural produce was determined. Rights of the tenants were pronounced in black and white. The British adopted the same revenue system with some changes. Pakistan inherited the same revenue system after independence. The British evolved the system of ‘jagirdari’ and Deputy Commissioner to perpetuate their regime in India. In DC, judicial, executive and revenue power were concentrated and made him the representative of the British Empire. The feudal system and the institution of DC remained intact with the past grandeur till introduction of the instant devolution plan.

Local Government System was introduced in the sub-continent by passing the Punjab Municipal Act of 1867. Initially the members of the local governments were nominated but after introduction of later laws, system of elections was also introduced in the local governments and responsibilities were also enhanced.

In the constitution of 1956, the state was defined as including: “the Federal
Government, the parliament, the Provincial Governments, the Provincial Legislatures, and all local or other authorities in Pakistan”. The local governments were made responsibility of the provincial governments.

In the Constitution of 1962, Electoral College comprising 40000 constituencies was created in each province to elect the President of Pakistan. Though, it was an important function of the local bodies but the Deputy Commissioners and Commissioners were the controlling authorities of the local bodies. In the Constitution of 1962 the terms local governments were not mentioned any where: there was a mention of the provincial governments and the Federal governments. The Federal Government was virtually given all the powers.

In the constitution of 1973, local governments were recognized as the third tier of the state. Article 7 of the constitution described state as: “the Federal Government, the Parliament, the Provincial Government, a Provincial Assembly and such local or other authorities in Pakistan as were empowered by law to impose any tax or cess.”

Martial Law was imposed on 7 July 1977. The local governments continued functioning under administrators till the promulgation of ‘The Punjab Local Government Ordinance 1979’. Four elections were held under this ordinance in 1979, 1983, 1987 and 1991. The Punjab Local Government Ordinance 2001 repealed all the previous ordinances.

The present government realized that bureaucracy is averse to change and prone to status quo, therefore, the government decided to empower the general public to make its decisions regarding fixation of development priorities. Decision making, earlier, was confined to Planning and Development Department and Divisions and at the level of Provincial and Federal levels. The powers were, thus, devolved to grass root level through Devolution Plan formulated by the National Reconstruction Bureau, with the following objectives:

· Devolution of powers
· Decentralization of administrative authority
· De-concentration of management functions
· Diffusion of power-authority nexus
· Distribution of resources to the district level
· Empowerment of women by giving them 33% seats

According to the plan, certain governmental functions were devolved to district, city district, tehsil, town and Union Council level. The provincial governments promulgated Local Government Ordinance 2001 on the basis of the devolution plan prepared by NRB. No previous civil or military government ever thought of empowering the public in such a big way.
Concepts of ‘good governance’, ‘bad governance’ and ‘decentralization’, ‘accountability’ and ‘transparency’ have made the public aware of their rights and right type of government.

Success Stories

As there are many failures and ambiguities related to Devolution, still there are many success stories to be told:

· Efficient distribution and expenditure of funds.
· Improvement in health facilities
· Improved educational facilities
· Reduced corruption and inefficiency

Problems of parallel system

Nazims are supposed to be non-political but they are virtually political figures. There is not proper linkage between District Nazim, Municipal Nazim and UC Nazim, except through advice of District Mushawarti Committee which does not carry any force of law.

Devolution was expected to increase coordination and understanding between the functionaries and the representatives of the local governments but nobody is clear about his role.

Inter group rivalries and discrimination between voter and non-voters has hampered unbiased provision of services to all persons. Nazims belonging to opposition parties have been handicapped by the provincial governments by not providing development funds and by stopping the provincial functionaries from cooperating with them.

Area of responsibility of Tehsil governments has been expanding to the whole of Tehsil as against the previous system where it was restricted to Municipal area only. But, proportionate increase in development funds has not been made. Major chunk of funds are being taken away by the Union Councils of rural areas, delivery of service has, therefore, become poor in terms of street lights, sewerage, sanitation, etc. The TMA is provided funds directly from the provincial government while UCs get funds from the District Government. There is duplication of development works done by the TMAs. They are doing such works as well which is exclusive responsibility of the district governments.

The provincial government exercises control over the District Government and Tehsil Municipal Administration functionaries in terms of transfer/ postings and Annual Confidential Reports through the Chief Secretary, Administrative Secretaries and Board of Revenue, etc. Provincial government exercises this authority without having any responsibility.

District Nazims are not accountable in terms of efficiency, effectiveness in service delivery and output. Institutions like District Mohtasib, Public Safety Commissions and public complaint authorities are yet to be in place. People are losing trust in local governments because of their ineffectiveness.

District Nazims think that they should have been devolved the powers of the DC in respect of Cr.PC, Collector and supervision over all departments on behalf of the provincial government. In case of law and order, the Nazim has very limited and obscure powers.

The system was not tested and grey areas removed. People and functionaries have still not familiar with new designations and rules and procedures. Functionaries are not taking interest in their duties.

No rules and procedures are there to fix responsibility in case of disaster management, VVIP visits, protocol duties, wheat procurement, establishment of Ramadan Bazaars and such other functions, which were previously being performed by the institution of District Magistrate. Similarly, the effectiveness other civil departments is no more there in terms of removal of encroachments, price controls, labour laws, spurious drugs, adulteration, pesticides, water theft, etc. Similarly, there is no formal control of Nazim over Irrigation and Power, Food Department, WAPDA, Telephone and other organizations.

The Nazims are not following any laws, rules or ethics in using powers of their subordinate offices. Powers are being used without taking responsibility.

Orders of transfer/ posting are being issued and cancelled under political pressure. Nazims are bypassing the DCOs and directing the EDOs to submit files directly. Development schemes are approved without technical considerations merely to favor or disfavor friends or foes. Areas of political adversaries are being completely neglected. Instead of devolution to grass root level, powers have been concentrated in Nazims. Government functionaries working under nazims are helpless and frustrated. Social justice, merit, service delivery, equitable distribution of resources and rule of law, hence, are badly suffering.

District Management Group and elected representatives of the provincial and national assemblies are against this system and they are always working overtly and covertly to sabotage it.

There is no formal institution for resolution of conflicts between all the tiers of local governments and between the functionaries and members of the local governments except through District Mushawrati Committee and Provincial Local Government Commission. Magnitude of complaints and conflicts is so high that the centralized commission cannot cope with them effectively.


Role of the local government in control over the police is not clear. According to Police Order 2002, District Nazim has control over police except in the internal administration and investigation of cases and prosecution. If the DPO thinks that the directives of the district government are unlawful, he can refer the case to the Public Safety Commission. The local governments have therefore demanded delegation of magisterial powers to the officers of TMA regarding removal of encroachment, hoarding, price control, profiteering, food adulteration and weights and measures, etc. The district governments feel handicapped in implementation of Local and Special Laws in absence of direct control over the police. Similarly, it has adversely affected recovery of land revenue and other taxes collected by the local governments. The District Nazims and the DCOs are of the view that the local governments should be allowed to maintain their own police for implementation of Local and Special Laws and that the Nazim should make entries in the ACR of DPOs relating to his performance in maintenance of law and order.


· Restore the institution of magistracy under EDOs, as envisage in original devolution plan. One may say that it is again combining executive and judiciary; but, the EDOs will use their powers in executive functions like checking the prices, hoarding and weights and measures. If traffic police can impose fine why EDOs cannot! EDOs may be limited to the extent of imposing fine on encroachers and hoarders, etc.

· Local government may be allowed to keep a Municipal Police for assisting the EDO magistrates.

· District Mushawarati Committee may be empowered to review law and order situation every month.


It is general perception that without control of the District Magistrate, the police have become unaccountable. Despite setting very idealistic objectives in Police Order 2002, police failed to come up to expectation of the public and it did not change their behavior. The Public Safety Commissions are to be set up at the district, provincial and federal levels are expected to keep a check on the conduct of police. Here we shall discuss only the District Public Safety Commission. It will have 12 Members in Lahore district, 10 at range headquarters and 8 in other districts. Half of the members shall be appointed from the elected member of the District Councils and the rest half shall be non-elected members recommended by the districts and notified by the Governors of the provinces.

Functions of the District Public Safety Commission

Approval of Local Policing Plan, prepared by DPO in consultation with Nazim Quarterly evaluation of police performance basing on targets set in Local Policing Plan and submits half yearly report to the Provincial Safety Commission, Nazim, DPO, Provincial Police Officers and the Provincial governments. It will also resolve conflicts between the nazims and the police. It will encourage police-public relationships. Monitor non-registration of FIR; police accesses; get enquiries conducted against police officers through members of the Commission and in case of non-compliance of findings of enquires, report against the DPO to the PPO, Provincial Government or Police Complaint Authority. Conceptually, the idea is very good but there are doubts about its efficacy when it starts working on ground. The Chairman of the Commission will be a local person and the elected and nominated members may be influenced by the district that can use the Commission against police. On the other hand, collusion between the police and the commission members cannot be ruled out. The Commission has not direct powers to take action against the police: it can only send a complaint. There are no criteria regarding experience and qualification of the members of the Commissions.


The process of planning and progress of development has improved with devolution of planning and decision making powers. Nazim give vision and formulates strategy for expenditure of ADP. 25% funds are allocated to Citizens Community Boards and Works and Services Group in a district plans and executes all schemes.

Planning has become a very technical and professional job. It is beyond the capability of the district governments. Continuous and constant flow of funds and resource cannot be ensured for the local governments, development plans; therefore, long term planning is not possible. District governments are dependent on the provincial governments for funds, which come late. The councilors want to divide the fund amongst them; big projects, hence, cannot be undertaken. Planning is marred by political expediencies. Union Council is a vital unit in planning and development because they receive funds from three sources: own sources, funds from Tehsil or Town Committees, and funds dished out by the district. For the first time in Pakistan’s history, planning and development is done at grass root level. But, unfortunately, things are not moving the way they were envisaged in Devolution Plan. Development schemes of opposition and minority councilors are badly affected.

The developmental role of all the three local governments is confusing and overlapping owing to political designs or unawareness of rules and procedures laid down in the PLGO. Intra district conflicts can be resolved by the District Mushawarati Committee but inter-district problems are difficult to resolve.

District Development Committee, chaired by the DCO and comprising EDOs and Dos, etc., are authorized to pass schemes up to 20 millions. This arrangement was made to keep planning free from political and local biases; but, the Nazims are not satisfied, DDC being non-representative forum. On ground, DDC has become a rubber stamp; because DCOs are subordinate to Nazims.

The Ordinance 2001 envisaged development expenditure through Citizen Community Boards on 20% cost sharing principle. On pressure of the councilors 50% of ADP to be expended by CCBs has been reduced to 25% of ADP. Development through CCB could reduce chances of misappropriation and unnecessary delays and could give sense of participation to the community but the local governments are staunchly opposing this beneficial system.

Local government paradigm has snatched away unauthorized roles from the members of provincial and national assemblies and restricted them to their original role, that is, legislation. Therefore, the legislators are the most ardent enemies of Devolution. Fortunately, Provincial legislators cannot amend the local government ordinance without prior approval of the President of Pakistan.

The Punjab Local Government Ordinance provides for Monitoring Committees, elected by the District Councils, to monitor performance of departments and submit quarterly reports to Nazims. Harassment caused to functionaries by the committee members shall entail dismissal of the member. Performance of local governments in carrying out development remained satisfactory. Their performance can be improved by taking the following steps:

· Timely release of funds by the provincial governments
· Transfer surplus provincial staff, like architects and designers to districts
· Functionaries must be trained in new rules and procedures
· Audit and Accounts rules for CCB should be framed at the earliest
· Development schemes must be allocated without any discrimination
· Overlapping of schemes must be avoided by a consultation mechanism
· The Legislators should focus on their original role
· District Development Committee to scrutinize schemes independent of Nazims
· Local Government (Monitoring) Rules should be framed at the earliest


· Provincial governments should be given some powers to amend the Local Government Ordinance 2001, keeping within certain parameters and the Federal Government should act as mediator and not as a player. The provincial government should own the local governments instead of pitching against them. The Federal Government should set example of devolving powers by giving provinces more autonomy.

· Quarterly meetings at provincial headquarters should be held, involving all stake holders, to remove the grey areas.

· Effective mechanism should be put in place to check and correct maladministration, corrupt practices and misappropriation in local governments. District government should have powers to have such control over Tehsil and Union Councils and the provincial governments should have similar authority over district governments. Role of District Mushawarati Committee should be enhanced to resolve conflicts.

· Enforcement of Police Order 2002 should be completed without further delay and writing of remarks by District Nazims in the ACR of District Police Officers should be ensured. District Public Safety Commission should be further empowered and the District and Session Judge must ensure that recommendations of the Commission are taken seriously. Member of the Commission should be imparted extensive training.

· District and Municipal governments should be allowed to raise their own police for specific purposes and the EDOs should be given magisterial powers. Nazims and Naib Nazims should not be allowed to affiliate with political parties. Legislators should also be given some role in development and a District Advisory Board consisting of MNAs, MPAs, District and Tehsil Nazims should be made under chairmanship of the Chief Ministers.

· Provincial administration should have no control over the local government officials. The local government should be independent in transfer/ postings and retaining officers. Every Union Council may be provided with a Development Officer and a sub-engineer to help them in executing projects.

· Provincial Local Government Commission should be made effective for conflict resolution.

· The Provincial Governments have vast powers in relation to District Governments by way of providing guidelines and rendering advice under Section 127 (3) LGO, 2001, issuing direction in public interest and enforcing the same through Inspector General Police and DCO, if the District Nazim fails to comply under Section 128 (3) LGO, 2001. Similar powers should be available to the District Governments, for issuing guidelines and directions to the TMAs and UCs.

· CPLCs should be set up for bringing the police and the public together.

· An awareness campaign should be launched for the masses to understand Devolution Plan.
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