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July 23, 2009
In Pakistan, all politics — and change — may be local

Local politics — a source of debate in Pakistan.

In 2001, Pakistan introduced a system under which local organizers — “nazims” — would be chosen by elected village representatives and receive government money to develop their districts.

But with no new elections planned after their terms expire, nazims — whose role is roughly equivalent to that of mayors in the U.S. — will soon be replaced by appointed government administrators. This has led some in Pakistan to worry that power will become too centralized.

Worldfocus contributing blogger Bilal Qureshi describes the controversy over Pakistan’s system of local politics.

There is a new controversy brewing in Pakistan about the local governments. Musharraf government had introduced a system under which local body elections were held and Nazims (a Nazim is like a mayor) were directly elected. However, the problem is that Nazims had very little authority to begin with and now that the current government, both at federal and provincial (a province is like a state) level decided to appoint administrators to replace the current Nazims, it seems that the remnants of Musharraf regime are not happy about it.

The Nazims wanted to remain in control and it was their desire to have the elections under their supervision so that they could influence the outcome. Naturally, this was not acceptable to the government.  Therefore,  the governments in center and in the provinces thought it would be wise to have administrators administer the up coming local body elections. To me, and to a large majority of Pakistanis, it makes complete sense, but hey, this is Pakistan we are talking about. Here, nothing is without controversy.

Amusingly, if the Nazims and their backers decided to take legal action, and more importantly if this issue ended up in the Supreme Court of Pakistan, government is going to win because there is hardly any sympathy for Musharraf or his supporters or the set up that Musharraf left behind him.

There is no question that Pakistan needs a very strong and comprehensive local body system because the overall infrastructure in the country is, well, dilapidated, if one has to be honest about it. And, only dedicated people with power, authority and funds can honestly asses the needs across the country and based on their assessment conceive programs that are not going to build a very strong and permanent set up that would directly benefit Pakistanis, but also create jobs that would help local communities and stabilize the country. At this point, I want to make sure that I am clear about one thing — only neutral, honest, and dedicated people will be able to effectively change and improve anything. Furthermore, these people, who should be directly elected, should be free of political pressure, outside meddling and, they should also be held accountable for their actions, or inaction.

Believe me, one of the surest ways to bring positive [change] to Pakistan is through local politics and this is a great opportunity for Pakistan to recover from decades of neglect. If the country can manage to have honest people develop and where necessary repair the infrastructure, bring communities together for common good, have people understand that strengthening communal relationships to overcome poverty, lawlessness, disease, and so on, it can be assumed, quite accurately that Pakistan can become what all of us want it to be — a free, democratic, and prosperous country in the region.

To read more, see the original post.

The views expressed by contributing bloggers do not reflect the views of Worldfocus or its partners.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user opendemocracy under a Creative Commons license.

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