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Local government Reforms 2001

Clearly when the threat of war loomed over Pakistan after 9/11 it was perhaps the worst of the times to usher in risky reforms that attempted to re-organize security.

There is reason to believe that Gen Musharraf did not undertake this reform for altruistic reasons. He wanted to do two things that every military dictator in Pakistan has desired but has invariably failed; to govern Pakistan as a unitary state bye-passing the provinces. Local government reform is also an attempt to bribe the lesser elites who are invariably 2nd class district level politicians supported to provide a dictator legitimacy and to use them against established political parties.

The British Imperial system had a tested method for delivery of services and maintenance of law and order. If Gen Musharraf had only shifted development powers to local government then the reforms could have been progressive. However, what he did was something much more sinister and destructive. At the start of the war, Pakistan ought to have consolidated its steel grid-lock of district administration making it into a formidable bulwark. Instead he broke the grid-lock by abolishing the civilian security structure.

It caused the following damages:

The joint police  magistracy system which oversaw crime and security was destroyed. Instead he modeled the police on the irrelevant Japanese model. In doing so Musharraf showed that he did not know or care to know that historical and cultural aspects influenced the designing of administrative structures. Under this reform the power over police was transferred to the feudal land lords who marginalized the peasantry further, some even reduced the share of irrigation water to the marginalized farmers.

The district Nazims being a local were easily influenced by pressures, many of them of a criminal nature based on pressure from land grabbing Mafias. In some cases in Swat the Nizams joined the militants.

The district Nazims were afraid to prosecute criminals and offenders as they belonged to the same community.

In other cases the Nazims represented the landlords and became target of the militants. Many abandoned their posts; some were killed including the district Nazim. These occurrences clearly showed how shallow Musharraf’s reform was. It caused chaos during the opening phases of the WoT.

It may be noted that at this time Swat was under the MMA government composed of religious parties who were anti-landlord and as such against the Nazims. The destabilization ushered by Gen Musharraf assisted them in granting a free hand to the militants.

Secondly since the MMA was sympathetic towards militants in Swat they colluded making the whole administrative framework weak. Had there been the previous system of district administration the effectiveness of measures against militants would have been better and could have provided effective protection to the communities.

The following are some of the key findings from the survey relating to the impact of local government reforms upon militancy and security:

56% of households thought that the reform of local bodies led to de-stabilization of administrative structures and provided space to the militants (Annex-1, Fig 18).

82% respondents said that the Provincial Government did not tackle militancy effectively (Annex-1, Fig 23).

A large percentage at 75% was of the view that government effectiveness declined after the Local Government Reforms (Annex-1, Fig 25).

Similarly 78% of respondents said that after the reforms of 2001 government coordination at district level became worse (Annex-1 Fig 26).

Similarly 75% of respondents said that after the reforms of 2001 the quality of governance declined (Annex-1 Fig 27).

67% of the respondents thought that had the previous structure of administration led by deputy commissioners been in place militancy could have been prevented. (Annex-1, Fig 28).

In another set of answers, 82% of respondents felt that the Nazims failed to prevent militancy (Annex-1, Fig 29).

Had people’s grievances been addressed militancy would have reduced. 78% agreed with this view (Annex-1, Fig 32). Since the local government system was ineffective and lacked coordination grievances increased and remained unaddressed.

To another question, 70% of households thought that the government was complacent in preventing the flow of heavy weapons to Swat (Annex-1, Fig 36).

In another result, 67% of households thought that administration’s contacts with militants encouraged them (Annex-1, Fig 37). This referred to the questionable conduct of senior administrators who were on friendly terms with militants. In one case it was the actions of a senior administrator sympathetic to the militant’s cause who arranged for them to enter Buner in 2009.

It is quite clear from the results relating to the Local Government Reform 2001 that it damaged the interest of the state and was considered beneficial to the militants. It is indeed strange to note that a military dictator took an extremely high risk road to reform through the Local Government Ordinance 2001 and opened the gates to the militants.

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