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New York Times criticizes devolution plan

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    New York Times criticizes devolution plan

    New York Times criticizes devolution plan

    By Our Correspondent

    NEW YORK, Aug 30: A sombre mood has been set for Chief Executive Gen Pervez Musharraf's
    visit to the United Nations to attend the Millennium Summit, which begins on Sept 6. In an editorial "
    Military Misrule", the New York Times underscored that a "speedier timetable for restorimg
    democracy in the country is urgently needed", and called on Gen Musharraf to "acknowledge that he is
    worsening Pakistan's problems and accelerate the return to democratic rule."

    The paper says: "Last October, Gen Musharraf overthrew Pakistan's democracy, promising to
    eradicate corruption, revive the economy and open the way for 'true democracy.' He pledged to
    restrain nuclear weapons' development and pursue peaceful diplomacy with India. Ten months later,
    he has made little progress with the economy or corruption and has put off the return of democracy
    until at least 2003. Pakistan still has not signed the nuclear test ban treaty and tensions with India over
    Kashmir are as dangerous as ever. Now Gen Musharraf has announced plans for a new political
    system designed to buttress his own power by excluding the country's top politicians. That would
    compound Pakistan's problems."

    Acknowledging that Pakistan's democratic governments have been "flawed", the paper observes,"but
    its military dictatorships have blighted its economic and political development and gravely damaged its
    international reputation. Gen Musharraf's administration has proved no different.

    " Military rulers claim they can push through reforms because they do not have to make deals with
    entrenched political interests. But they are beholden to Pakistan's single most powerful interest group,
    the military and its related intelligence services. Military spending absorbs more than a quarter of
    Pakistan's yearly budget, diverting resources needed for education and development."

    Dwelling on Pakistan's economic problems the paper notes that the International Monetary Fund is
    also unhappy with the slow pace of promised economic reforms.

    Meanwhile, there are reports that Pakistan Muslim league and Pakistan People's Party plan to jointly
    demonstrate in front of the United Nations on Sept 6, the day Gen Musharraf is scheduled to address
    the gathering of world leaders. They will protest against the army rule and call for restoration of
    democracy as soon as possible.

    Besides holding two press conferences, one at the United Nations and another at the Roosevelt Hotel,
    Gen Musharraf will also meet a group of Pakistan technocrats, mostly information technology experts
    to discuss ways to accelerate Pakistan's entry into global technology market.

    I couldn't get the real article as i would have to pay 3 bucks for it and i don't have a credit card - so that didn't work.

    Oh My God - what ever shall we do???
    Personally i would tell the NYT to shove it.
    The stuff about the CE causing more problems i wrong.
    But the devolution is something else.
    What is it exactly, nobody really knows.
    But based on all the ideas flying back and forth, i think it is a good idea in theory, but practically for pakistan i am not so sure.
    I personally don't understand what it is.
    The best comparsion i can think of is the US way of townships, counties, states and then country.
    Meaning Township council.
    County Mayor - along with cities.
    State Governer.
    And lastly working for the state in the federal govt.
    This would create a whole lot more beaucracy and chances for corruption.
    Will it work for Pakistan - i reallu don't know.
    What do you guys think??

    You can't fix stupid. So might as well troll them!

    Hmmm..First of all read this article, this might help you understand what this plan is about – also as said before we should discuss our policies and plans independently, this has been up for weeks and nobody was interested until NYT criticized it. Don’t let other’s dictate your discussing beta. This article also shows a lil our own ppl'd reaction to this.


    A revolution from above - By Ayaz Amir
    FOR once in our national experience reality outstrips the hype. The devolution of power/local government plan announced by General Pervez Musharraf is not a smoke conjurer's trick, promising the moon and delivering a dunghill. It is the most serious attempt at restructuring the Pakistani state in our history.
    If the import of it has not sunk into most minds, I suspect it is because most people have yet to read the text. Newspapers could have helped to lighten the fog but by writing slipshod and superficial editorials on the subject they have not hastened the cause of national understanding. They need to re-examine this document with greater care.
    As for myself I stand chastened. How many times must I not have taken gleeful swipes at General Tanveer Naqvi and his National Reconstruction Bureau, sincerely thinking that the wizards under his command purportedly burning midnight oil, being political tyros, would produce a mishmash of confusion and impractical wisdom. Regarding General Moinuddin Haider I thought that his police reforms (put together by a focal group headed by Zafar Iqbal Rathore) were no better than a pipe-dream. In the event the local government plan and the police reforms are so nicely dovetailed with each other that they make a seamless whole, creating a structure which is more real democracy than the facades and the blown-up images we have experienced in the past. To both the generals therefore I hereby tender (for what these are worth) my profoundest apologies.
    But my humility comes with a rider. Will General Musharraf stick to this plan? I say this because over the last ten months his government has turned the notion of a slip betwixt the cup and the lip into an art form. So many bold decisions announced with great fanfare have been followed by the most comprehensive retreats. For General Musharraf's sake I hope it is different this time.
    But back to the plan. For most of our lives we have moaned about the over-concentration of power in the bureaucratic state. Well, here at a blow, the bureaucratic state stands denuded of its foundations. The office of district magistrate, the viceregal state's representative in the field, stands abolished, with an elected office-bearer, the district nazim, becoming the executive head of the district. The mandarinate has taken the killing of democracy in its stride, indeed participating in the funeral rites whenever the occasion has arisen. Through upheavals and disasters it has remained unmoved, secure in the knowledge that even if the mountains walk to the sea its power and privileges will remain untouched. How then will this most powerful of tribal orders survive the death of the district magistrate?
    Nor is this all. As if to prove that when misfortunes come they come not in single files but battalions, the office of commissioner has also been abolished. The death sentence is a model of brevity: "The Division as an administrative tier will cease to exist." That is all. No extended obituaries. At a stroke the most redundant, the most useless, the most obstructive tier in the obsolescent administrative structure of the Pakistani state is hurled into the trashcan of history.
    These reforms should have been introduced by the tribunes of the people, by the titans of democracy. This is what makes the heart weep. Out in the political wilderness these fearless souls fulminate in the harshest tones against the bureaucracy; in power they lose no time in falling into its lethal embrace. It now falls to a military dictator to herald these long over-due changes. Maybe his motives are suspect. Maybe he wants to prolong his rule (something which every wise man will take as a strong probability). But no matter. The spinoff effects of an invention are often more important than the invention itself. So I think is true in this case.
    Whether or not Musharraf nurses the ambitions of a Caesar, the changes he has announced reverse a process rooted in the feverish climate of post-1857 India when, in the aftermath of the Mutiny or the War of Independence (take your pick), the British sought the security and preservation of the Raj in a powerful executive, from the district magistrate at the bottom to the viceroy at the top.
    Just consider the sweep of the proposed changes. The deputy commissioner, stripped of his powers and in his new incarnation as District Coordination Officer responsible for overseeing the work of the various district departments, viz. health, education, highways, etc, and reporting to the district nazim. The superintendent of police also reporting to the nazim. In both cases the evaluation reports of these officers will be initiated by the nazim who, should the need arise, will also be able to have them transferred after showing due cause. At the district level this is a radical shift of power.
    Similarly at the tehsil level, the tehsil nazim will be the head of the tehsil administration. Municipal committees and corporations will be done away with and the tehsil administration will look after town and country. Only the four provincial capitals plus Islamabad will have city governments, later to be extended to some of the other metropolises in the light of the experience gathered.
    The zila and tehsil councils will approve the budget (to be prepared under the direction of the nazims), will levy taxes and oversee the functioning of different district and tehsil departments through a mechanism of committees, etc. They will also have the power to recall or dismiss the nazims, there being a procedure for this. But in essential respects the source of local power will be the respective nazims and not the councils. My hunch is that in good time this 'presidential' system will be the model for the provincial and federal governments as well - with power vested in an executive not answerable, except in a roundabout way, to the elected assemblies.
    To draw comparisons with the Ayub and Zia models of local government will be fallacious because in those cases power was firmly in the hands of the bureaucracy. Here power in the real sense of the word is being devolved, in quite a radical manner, to elected representatives. The benefits for the military government are obvious. It will get a popular base which will have a vested interest in the success and continuity of the Musharraf regime.
    Broad participation, coupled with the destruction of the old viceregal structure, will have an electric effect on small towns and villages where the shadow of the bureaucracy has always loomed large. As the political parties become further marginalized and irrelevant a new political game will be called into existence which will see not only the deputy commissioner but also the old political guard consigned to oblivion.
    What further consequences this has for the future of the country I cannot say. All that can be said with certainty is that in preparing and outlining its devolution package, General Musharraf and his colleagues, breaking with established Pakistani tradition, have chosen the bold and intellectually daring path, something which at least I had put beyond them. As the true meaning of this plan starts sinking into the minds of the people at large I have no doubt that there will be a scramble to board the wagon, especially when district and tehsil nazims will be virtual governors and bishops in their respective dioceses. Nothing like the prospect of power to change old ways of thinking.
    The heaviest strain will come on the Muslim League whose members, whatever their imprisoned leader may say, will rush to join the hustings. The PPP will be in a fix. Its leader is out, its local cadres too dispirited and disoriented to make much of the local elections. As for the tonga parties who have no muscle to influence any election, they can be expected to take refuge behind an ultra-democratic line, decrying the Musharraf model as a sidetracking of democracy. Ordinary people will not buy this line.The only question is whether General Musharraf will have the tenacity to stick to what he has proposed. As I have already said, his government's record in this connection is not very encouraging. On so many occasions it has said one thing and done another. Whether as a result of second thoughts, late-night pusillanimity or bureaucratic resistance, there is a retreat on this plan, what remains of the government's credibility will fall by the wayside beyond hope of any recovery.
    TAILPIECE: General Musharraf has asked his ministers to fan out and spread the word about the good points of the local government plan. Not a smart move at all. When ministers start saying something and Pakistan Television picks up the refrain, people always suspect the worst.


    Now about this article:
    >> Personally i would tell the NYT to shove it.<<
    If you really have planned to tell ‘em that, you’re welcome to put my name on it too

    We’ll discus this plan once you’ve read the article – about NYT article I think it’s written in such a disrespectful manner that any government with some self-respect should object to this. These ppl have their own priorities and wants to dictate Pak, CTBT is not our priority, the world can go ahead with it, Pak is not holding them back, we’ll sign it when WE are ready. We are being used as a lame excuse. Kashmir is a priority but problem with india is in no way our top priority, so judging our government over that is idiocy, if it’s so important to US, then step in a solve the stinky problem! Sure corruption is not dead nor is our economy at it’s best, none said that they could turn it t in one year either. Things will take time and if ppl of Pak are willing to give the government more time, every one else should shut up. As for PPP and Muslim league, I wish Pak community was wiser then this, hopefully more pp will be interested in knowing CE’s plans and actions for the betterment of Pak then supporting these dumbos – btw how is the Pak community divided in states? What kinda reaction is Pak embassy expecting? Finally, I wish CE addresses the important issues and doesn’t let the others dictate his speech and can concentrate on other issues as well as Kashmir.


      If NYT is against Musharraf then he must be doing something right.
      The golden rule is support all politicians that West frowns upon and detest all that they hold close to their heart.


        Very true rational!!
        But Sahab and rational do you think this will work for the country???
        It is a serious effort on the part of the CE, but can we handle it????

        You can't fix stupid. So might as well troll them!


          Rational that rule is a lil too golden to follow – every action and every leader should be judged by his/her actions holding them up against what Pak needs now and in future. We gotta learn how to criticize independently, without any out sider’s interference

          CM, someday I’m gonna have you banned or something, geee it’s Saba huh!

          Now back to the topic, yes it has to work for the country, and yes it is going to be hard to handle plus it needs some serious modifications, so that it is as fool proof as possible. The Zilah Nizam, (It’s gonna be difficult for us to get used to these new terms also) is gonna be responsible for the basics like mini states, as I understood it – so the ordinary ppl will have to be on their toes. They’ll need help from the media and they’ll have to feel the responsibility. Perhaps it’s true implementation will take longer time the anticipated, as many of our villages and smaller cities vote on biraderi bases, and as they are normally well off financially they can stay in power for few more years, but that is definitely one way to go. There are many holes that have to be filled before this plan can be implemented successfully. Common ppl will have to educate them selves in order to understand the importance of their votes, and media has to give the correct information about the elected representatives work etc. The zilah nizam should have limited authorities in the beginning; the center and local ppl should strictly follow them. etc


            The thing that confuses me is how it will counter the threat of feudalism. Even of there are no political parties involved at this level the people selected for the job are going to come from within the zila. Now as we all know the Chaudry is an uncrowned king of the area. How will these people who have for generations taken all the crap and commands from these guys are going to all of a sudden stand up for their rights. They have no backing of the government for the only place where they can go in case of a problem is the police which is basically living off of the money of this very Chaudry.
            Personally I feel the system has flaws the govt. should have passed the land reform act before the devolution plan.


              Hi, I found another interesting article on this, it’s from Chowk (hope they don’t mind).

              Would Devolution Empower “We the People”?
              by Bilal Ahmad

              Musharraf's devolution plan is likely to empower the people of Pakistan. But, how?
              In his seven-point agenda of October 17, 1999, General Musharraf resolved to: (1) rebuild national confidence and morale; (2) strengthen the federation, remove inter-provincial disharmony and restore national cohesion; (3) revive the economy and restore investor confidence; (4) ensure law and order and dispense speedy justice; (5) depoliticize state institutions; (6) devolve power to the grassroots level; and (7) ensure swift and across the board accountability. In declaring good governance as necessary for the successful implementation of his agenda, Musharraf maintained that: "In the past, our governments have ruled the people. It is time now for the governments to serve the people."
              Although Musharraf's agenda was well-received by an overwhelming majority of interested people in Pakistan, its actual implementation is likely to generate a host of new tensions because it might disturb the status quo in a society that is economically underdeveloped, ethnically and linguistically fragmented, religiously and emotionally charged, and politically unprepared. Does this mean that no attempt should be made to transform the existing social relations of the state, civil society, and economy? If Pakistan’s difficulties are essentially a product of her corrupt, unresponsive, and highly centralized state, the Pakistani state and its political system need to be restructured in light of a new vision and social contract. Hence, on the 53rd Independence Anniversary of Pakistan, General Musharraf announced his “Local Government Plan 2000" to reshape the administrative and political structure at the grassroots level. This so-called devolution plan appears visionary since it purports to empower the common people through participation in local decision-making and management of local governments.
              Musharraf’s devolution plan rests upon four basic principles: (1) vertical political integration, (2) shared responsibility, (3) supremacy of public representatives over public servants, and (4) distribution of power and accountability of its use (Dawn, Editorial, August 16, 2000). It proposes a three-tier administrative structure comprising partyless, directly-elected union councils and indirectly elected tehsil and district councils. Each union council will comprise 18 members (12 men and 6 women; six seats will be reserved for the representatives of the peasants and workers). Each union council will be headed by a nazim, assisted by a deputy nazim who will be elected on the basis of joint candidacy. The union nazim will also be assisted by three administrative secretaries. The union deputy nazims will be members of their respective tehsil council, where they will elect a pair of tehsil council nazim and deputy nazim; while union council nazims will be members of their respective district council, where they will elect a pair of district council nazim and deputy nazim. Each district council will be headed by a (district council) nazim with the assistance of a grade-20 district coordination officer (DCO) who will coordinate the functions of all district departments. The head of police in each district will be directly answerable to the district nazim, though the performance of each district nazim will be monitored by a District Public Safety Commission (DPSC). This three-tiered vertically integrated system of local bodies will have financial autonomy. Finanacial grants for various projects will come through a Provincial Finance Commission and spent at the union council level under the supervision of each union council.
              Is this plan going to work? Will it receive adequate support from an overwhelming majority of the people? Is it qualitatively different from all previously implemented local government plans, particularly Ayub Khan’s so-called Basic Democracy System? To provide satisfactory answers to these questions, we may have to wait and see the actual implementation of this plan in the context of Pakistan’s ground realities. Musharraf, however, identifies four requirements for its implementation: (1) make the people masters of their own destiny; (2) put the District Administrative functionaries under the elected people; (3) give financial autonomy to local governments; and (4) ensure speedy justice at the local level. Are these requirements sufficient? Is the direct partyless election of representatives at the lowest (i.e. union council) level sufficient for ensuring public choice and local control? Would all union, tehsil, and district councils be able to provide equal/fair access to various goods and services, particularly under a system of financial autonomy? Would a decentralized system of governance ensure the protection of various citizenship and human rights of all people, irrespective of their class, gender, ethno-linguistic background, religious preference, and other bases of individual and collective identities? What kind of tensions and conflicts are likely to develop before and after the implementation of the devolution plan? Are the answers of these questions provided in the National Reconstruction Bureau’s “Local Government Plan 2000" (available at and other available relevant sources of information?
              We need to recognize that good governance at any scale is dependent upon the revival of the economy, payment of existing debt, balancing the budget, and improving the climate for venture capital at both local and supralocal levels. One area that needs particular attention, in this regard, is the peaceful resolution of conflicts between India and Pakistan. As long as adversarial relations remain intact, Pakistan may not be able to allocate sufficient funds for the development and welfare of her people. Can Musharraf’s devolution plan realistically empower the people in each locality without a significant improvement in their overall quality of life?