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Pakistan, India urged to learn from each other’s LG systems

Pakistan, India urged to learn from each other’s LG systems

ISLAMABAD: Legislators from Pakistan and India have underscored the need for regular dialogue among citizens from both sides, especially in areas that can help improve the lives of citizens in both countries.

The legislators and public officials gathered in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday to share lessons from each other’s local government systems and anti-corruption mechanisms to address common problems.

According to a joint statement issued by the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Trans­parency (Pildat) on Sunday, participants from both sides expressed embarrassment over the fact that they were forced to huddle in a neutral country owing to the state of relations between Pakistan and India.

The participants underscored the need to improve conditions allowing for free dialogue and advocated the sharing of good practiced among citizens of the two countries.

Local govt systems

Sharing models of LG systems in place across Pakistan and India, including the Panchayati Raj prevalent in India, participants noted that both countries faced strikingly similar challenges.

People from both sides agreed that strong legal provisions were needed for the continuity of local government systems. The inclusion of such a provision in the Indian constitution had ensured continuity, they noted.

Both sides also stressed that power should be meaningfully devolved to the lower tiers. Similarly, allocation of resources needs to be governed effectively through the provincial or state finance commissions.

They also maintained that the continuity of LG systems was a basic requirement for strengthening the democratic structure and making it more effective.

The provision of minimum educational qualifications to contest LG elections in some Indian states was also discussed.

There were concerns that such provisions might lead to the exclusion of a large number of women and other disadvantaged segments of society and would run counter to the principle of inclusion.

The need for campaign finances was also considered a major challenge which tended to exclude large segments of the population from contesting the elections. The participants believed that creative solutions were required to address this challenge.

A significant increase in the number of women in the Panchayati Raj system had a great impact in India. The participants noted that distinct solutions were being applied in some Indian states, enhancing women’s mean­­ingful participation in the LG system.

Such practices are worthy of consideration in the Pakistani LG system, where 33 per cent representation for women is part of the law. Delegates also believed that women still need to overcome social and cultural barriers and require various forms of support in both countries.

Anti-corruption mechanisms

The two sides lamented the low ranking of both Pakistan and India on the Corruption Perception Index and the public acceptance of the prevalence of corruption in both countries.

Both sides believed that alongside effective institutions, the two countries required stronger affirmation by people that the rule of law should prevail and there was a need for continuous strengthening of accountability mechanisms.

Delegates also agreed that political parties must open themselves up to greater transparency, there should be zero tolerance for corruption among their own rank and file and, while choosing candidates for various elections they should provide the required impetus to effective anti-corruption efforts.

The Pakistani delegation included MNA Syed Naveed Qamar, MPA Mahtab Akbar Rashdi and Peshawar District Nazim Arbab Mohammad Asim Khan. The Indian delegation comprised of Rajya Sabha member Mani Shankar Aiyar, Bhupinder Singh Hooda, Dr Sharan Prakash Patil and others.

Published in Dawn, December 14th, 2015

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