Experts seek constitutional amendment to protect local governments.

ISLAMABAD -- A national conference held by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (HRCP) in partnership with the Friedrich Naumman Foundation for Freedom (FNF) has called for a constitutional amendment to protect the form and tenure of local governments and ensure that fiscal decentralisation enabled local bodies to carry out their functions effectively.

In the first session, Dr Umair Javed, assistant professor of politics and sociology at Lahore University of Management Sciences (Lums), said Article 140-A was an inadequate safeguard for local governments, adding that the provincial governments' municipal and legislative responsibilities should be delinked.

Lawyer Hamid Khan said members of provincial assemblies (MPAs) and members of the National Assembly (MNAs) had become 'unnecessary rivals' to local governments and recommended that development funds be given only to local bodies.

Lawyer Hamid Khan suggests giving funds only to local bodies

Fauzia Viqar, former chairperson of the Punjab Commission on the Status of Women, emphasised that women's participation in local governments should not be tokenised. Dr Aziz Ahmad, professor of economics, pointed to the 'asymmetry' between political and fiscal decentralisation, saying that the latter would help reduce gender and income disparities.

Speaking in the second session, Zafarullah Khan, chief executive of Ideas for Vision 2047, said local governments should be able to make their own rules of business.

Qazi Khizar, vice-chair of HRCP's Sindh chapter said that marginalised groups such as the transgender community and religious minorities should not be barred from direct election to local governments, even though the law provided for them reserved seats.

PPP's Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Assembly member Ahmad Kundi suggested introduction of constitutional courts as a way to safeguard local governments. Supreme Court advocate Mubeen Uddin Qazi underscored the...

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