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End of the (colonial) District Commissioners

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    End of the (colonial) District Commissioners

    As part of the CE's ambitous local government devolution plan a welcome move will be the end of the D.C.(District Commissioner), a relic of 19th century colonialism. This article explains why the abolition of the DC is a major step in the restructuring of Pakistan's governmental system. It will bring real democracy and devolution to Pakistan and put an end to the vast corruption instruments bulit around the 'colonial' DC...

    Pakistan's district commissioners bow out

    Pakistan's military government has decided to introduce major reforms in order to empower more than 100 district councils in the country.

    These councils will be set up through an election process starting in December.

    The move would effectively abolish the 19th century British colonial system of controlling the districts through a powerful deputy commissioner.

    Rizwan Ahmed is the 105th Deputy Commissioner of Hyderabad district - an un-elected post that has existed virtually unchanged since the early days of British rule.

    The district collector, or the deputy commissioner, has remained the most powerful official in his own area since the system was introduced.

    Mr Ahmed's official residence, which is spread over several thousand square metres in an otherwise congested district, is a testament to his power and authority.

    Holding court

    Like every deputy commissioner in the country, Mr Ahmed collects revenue for the government, and controls the state law and order machinery.

    Periodically, he also holds a court outside his office to listen to the problems of the common people.

    Mr Ahmed insists that the deputy commissioner's role today is fundamentally different to that of his British predecessors.

    "The [district] collector appointed by the British was there to extract the wealth from the area and to send it across.

    "He was least interested to serve the people, or was least interested about the interest of the public. And the role of the Deputy Commissioner right now is to serve the people," he says.

    But the people of Hyderabad are certainly not well served.

    Barely a stone's throw from the deputy commissioner's official residence is the reality of Hyderabad.

    Poorly maintained roads, unhygienic living conditions and dilapidated official buildings are a sad reminder of more than 50 years of bad governance and utter neglect.

    Feared police

    Even today the collector or the deputy commissioner draws his strength, not from the people, but from a powerful magisterial and police system.

    Perhaps the irony is that these 19th century institutions have now become not only inefficient but are perceived as even more repressive.

    It is the object of fear and loathing for most citizens.

    Understaffed and underpaid, the police's lethargy in carrying out its duties is matched only by its rampant corruption and ruthlessness - something that is admitted by senior officials.

    However, these officials say chronic lack of funding and misuse of the police by successive governments is to blame for the present state of affairs.

    It is a paternalistic, elitist approach, which is based on the notion that people aren't equipped to know best what is good for them

    Retired general Tanvir Naqvi
    Tanvir Naqvi, a retired army general, is chairman of the military government's National Reconstruction Bureau.

    Regarded as the architect of the government's reform programme, he believes the system can only improve if the elected local councils are allowed to run the affairs of their respective districts.

    "The system we have is that everything is top-down. It is a paternalistic, elitist approach, which is based on the notion that people aren't equipped to know best what is good for them," he says.


    The new devolution of power plan would make the district police and the civil administration subservient to the elected local councils.

    Police are feared and loathed

    But some sceptics of the proposed reforms say the plan is not in touch with Pakistan's social and cultural peculiarities.

    Kunwar Idris, a former civil servant who has served several districts, says that by abolishing a system just because it was introduced by the British colonialists may create more problems.

    "I feel that we are not yet ripe, where every district or every election at the local level can throw up an independent administrator who will rise above the cast, clan and other parochial considerations," Mr Idris says.

    The long drawn out process of local government elections is to start from December this year, and will be completed by the middle of next year.

    Even after these elections it may take many months before a clear picture of the new system emerges.

    But one thing is certain - in Pakistan the sun is about to set on the 19th century colonial style of governance.

    well the CE is doing good things one after the other.
    We should really decide to change that 3 year thing to a 7 year one.
    But alas out people in power are lets say slow to think.
    Or they are worried out international credibility which is very important for a import led development policy.

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


      Personally I think that Musharraf will be around a lot more than 3 years whether as CE or President and inshallah he will complete his devolution plan. Pakistan is 53 years late in getting rid of the colonial governmental set up in our country but at least the CE has started. I think he will remain for more than 3 years to ensure that the successor politicians don't go back on his local government reforms.


        InshAllah, buddy InshAllah.

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