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Pakistan: New Law on Local Governance for Sindh Province Promulgated

(Sept. 14, 2012) On September 6, 2012, the Governor of Pakistan’s Sindh Province, Dr. Ishrat ul Ebad, promulgated the Sindh People’s Local Government Ordinance (SPLGO) 2012, introducing a new “mixed” system of local governance there. Under the new system, five cities in the province (Karachi, Hyderabad, Larkana, MirPurKhas, and Sukkur) would be administered as “metropolitan corporations” headed by mayors, while the remaining rural districts would be run by district councils. (Sindh Governor, CM Sign Local Govt Law, DAWN.COM (Sept. 7, 2012).)

According to Pakistan’s financial daily newspaper Business Recorder, the metropolitan corporations will control and administer “civil institutions, primary schools, rural health centers and other departments,” while the law and order and revenue departments would be run under the provincial-level Sindh government, under an appointed commissioner system. (LG Ordinance Promulgated: Sindh Coalition Split Widens over PPP-MQM Deal, BUSINESS RECORDER (Sept. 8, 2012).)

The new ordinance was enacted after long, and often heated, negotiations between two provincial coalition partners, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM). The political parties have long disagreed over how local governance should be administered in Sindh Province. (PPP, MQM Meeting: Local Govt Issue Still Blocking Progress, THE EXPRESS TRIBUNE (Sept. 4, 2011); Divergence of Muttahida-PPP Views on LG System Continues, DAWN.COM (Dec. 7, 2011).)

The PPP has attempted to maintain the old commissioner system of local governance in Sindh, pursuant to the Sindh Local Government Ordinance, 1979, under which power and governance is concentrated more on the provincial level and local leaders are provincially appointed as supposed to being elected, a system said to favor Pakistan’s “feudal” political elites (that is, the large-scale landowners who dominate the country’s major political parties such as the PPP and the Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz). MQM, which largely receives its support from urban grass roots members, prefers a mayoral or nazim system, whereby local officials are elected at the district level. (Divergence of Muttahida-PPP Views on LG System Continues, supra.)

The new law appears to be a mixture of the two systems. Recent negotiations on a new law began after a 2001 local governance law lapsed and the local government system reverted to the old commissioner system, restoring the Sindh Local Government Ordinance, 1979. (Commissioners Restored in Sindh: Sources, THE NEWS (Nov. 5, 2011); The Sindh (Repeal of the Sindh Local Government Ordinance 2001 and Revival of the Sindh Local Government Ordinance, 1979) Act, No. 24 of 2011 (July 13, 2011), No. PAS/Legis-B-25/2011, Provincial Assembly of Sindh website.)

Local governance is mandated under article 140A of Pakistan’s Constitution, which states: “[e]ach Province shall, by law, establish a local government system and devolve political, administrative and financial responsibility and authority to the elected representatives of the local governments.” The article was introduced into Pakistan’s Constitution through the Eighteenth Amendment, which came into force on April 19, 2010. (The Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan (as modified up to Apr. 20, 2010), art. 140A, National Assembly of Pakistan website.)