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Towards meaningful devolution

By Jamil Nasir

THE Social Policy and Development Centre (SPDC) recently launched its report with the title Devolution and Human Development in Pakistan. The report, inter alia, has analysed the impact of the devolution plan on the poor and marginalised sections of society.

The finding of the report is that the system of local government introduced in 2001 in the country is plagued with the phenomenon of ‘elite capture’ and has not delivered well on enhancing the participation of ‘the voiceless and the marginalised’ sections of society in decision-making. The report further says that the influence of family, caste, tribe and other political affiliations permeates the fabric of local government institutions with the result that the political landscape of Pakistan is still dominated by the elite.

The idea of devolution per se is globally recognised as an effective arrangement for empowering people at the local level. Many countries in the world have either undertaken or are in the process of devolution by transferring political, fiscal and administrative responsibilities to the lower levels of the government. In some countries, devolution is considered a natural corollary to democratisation while in others it is spurred by the failure of the central government to deliver basic public services. Continue reading

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