- And other promises
Imran Khan said all the right, nice things during his first visit to Punjab as PM, as expected, but there’s a need to keep a close eye on some of his government’s core promises. And as welcome as implementation of his orders regarding encroachments, land mafia, austerity, etc, will be, the prime minister did the right thing by demanding an immediate revamp of the local government system in Punjab. For a government to check its expenses and do away with discretionary funds is all very nice. But it’s equally important to establish a system that guarantees transfer of power and, more importantly, sufficient money to the grass-root to be able to make a visible difference.
Surely nobody needs any reminding of how reluctant Pakistan’s democratic governments have been about genuine devolution of power to the local government level. That last PML-N government, especially, had to be literally arm-twisted by the Supreme Court into holding local body elections. And when the exercise was finally undertaken, local governments were duly stripped of any meaningful authority and, of course, funds.
The essence of democracy, as Imran Khan has emphasised throughout his 22-year struggle, lies in erecting structures of governance as close to the man on the ground as possible. That is why the LG system is the life and blood of the modern western representative system of governance. And though we have now, finally, established parliamentary democracy with yet another smooth transfer of power to yet another civilian government, we still have a way to go when it comes to taking fruits of that democracy to the common man. This, of course, has been one of Imran’s longest standing promises. And now that he has set the ball rolling early on this point, the Punjab government has its work cut out for it.