DEVOLUTION IN PAKISTAN: REFORM OR REGRESSION? 22 March 2004
D. LAW ENFORCEMENT
In August 2002, President Musharraf promulgated Police Order 2002, under which the district police officer (DPO) is responsible to the zila nazim for police functions "other than administration of the district police, investigation of criminal cases and police functions relating to prosecution" . The nazim writes an annual performance report on the DPO. Emulating the Japanese National Safety Commission system, the Police Order calls for establishment of oversight bodies with both elected and appointed members at district, provincial and national levels. It also creates an independent prosecution service to act as an additional check and balance on the police, who have investigation as a separate responsibility. But the Japanese police system has been implanted in Pakistan without account being taken of the political and administrative differences between the countries. The Japanese system is predicated on institutional mechanisms that shield the police from political pressure and ensure civilian control. In Pakistan, the police are highly politicised, inefficient and corrupt. Despite provisions for police autonomy on assignments, these remain centrally or provincially controlled. Law and order is a provincial responsibility, and the new federally enacted police order has understandably engendered apprehension and resistance among provincial authorities. More importantly, since assuming power in October 1999, the Musharraf government has given no practical indication that it intends to reform the police. On the contrary, like its military predecessors, it has deployed police for regime ends.
This includes using law-enforcement agencies to obtain favourable results in local elections and the presidential referendum as well as to harass political opponents. The military's failure to implement police reforms is evidence of its unwillingness to hand over law enforcement to public representatives. According to a police official, "while much was made of the purportedly historic nature of police reforms, there appears to be no enthusiasm within the senior military echelons to back police reforms in substance". Provincial reservations were cited as reasons for delay in implementation of reforms but the military has conveniently transferred responsibility for enacting those reforms to a powerless elected government. Sections of Police Order 2002 that grant powers to the police have indeed been enforced but areas that prescribe accountability remain poorly implemented. While the district commissioner' s lateral control has been removed, the district police officer remains only tangentially responsible to the nazim for law and order.
Previously, the DC had been positioned to intervene on behalf of the public to redress grievances. "Though the DC's operational check on the police had been diluted over the years", says a former police official, "periodic visits to the police station did bring relief for those in unlawful detention". Technically, the district nazim can inspect police stations to check illegal detentions but except for districts in which individual police officers have personally established a good working relationship with the nazim, district police authorities are widely accused of running a parallel government. Says Khairpur nazim Nafisa Shah, "I have no information about the activities of the police. Unless a cooperative police officer comes along, I fear the police will continue to operate without any check or accountability" . The viability of police reforms depends largely on how the planned safety commission system evolves. Initial signs are discouraging. While provincial governments have notified the creation of district safety commissions, few are properly constituted, fewer still operational. These latter, including the one in Quetta, owe their success mainly to the personal involvement of individual police officers. Provincial safety commissions and the police complaints authorities are yet to be created. Since the promulgation of the Police Order, a corrupt and violence-prone force has been allowed a free hand without external accountability.
In fact, selective implementation of the order in an overall environment of the absence of rule of law has resulted in a sharp rise in reported police excesses, crimes, and deteriorating law and order. Even if the safety commissions were constituted as envisaged, questions would remain about their effectiveness. The Police Order gives the commissions vague powers to approve policing plans and encourage public-police cooperation. A commission can only ask the district police officer "in writing" to remedy of public complaints. It has no independent enforcement mechanisms or powers of inspection. The federally appointed provincial governor selects half the commission's members. More importantly, the governor can remove members "on his own volition" on several grounds, including "involvement in activities prejudicial to the ideology, interest, security, unity, solidarity, peace and integrity of Pakistan", a euphemism for arbitrary removal. Police officers as well as many district nazims interviewed by ICG still support the new reforms. Nazims pointed out that nazim-police coordination helped keep relative calm in the wake of countrywide protests against the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan. "During the violence-prone month of Muharram when Sunni-Shia tensions are running high", said Amjad Noon, nazim of Sargodha district in Punjab "the police and district government worked hand in hand to avert any untoward incidents". Police officials say that DMG officers who remain unwilling to shed their colonial powers are maligning the Police Order. There is no doubt that the previous system was outdated and contrary to all principles of modern policing. "The Police Order has removed the colonial system of administrative controls over the police", said the senior superintendent of police in Quetta. "Investigation has been separated; we can now work more efficiently if given the resources and political backing". There is, in fact, a consensus among senior law enforcement officials interviewed by ICG on the need to see the Police Order implemented in letter and spirit. At the same time, they express doubts about its legitimacy and viability given its association with a military regime. According to a former police service interior secretary, "for the police to function effectively, the society has to ensure that the Constitution is
honoured by all. With the military in control, the government is no longer accountable to the people. This creates a precarious situation, particularly for the agency which is responsible for law enforcement" .
VI. DONORS AND DEVOLUTION
When the military took power on 12 October 1999, Pakistan was nearly bankrupt. The U.S. had imposed military and economic sanctions as a result of Pakistan's pursuit of nuclear weapons. After a series of nuclear tests in May 1998, new loans from the IMF and World Bank were suspended, and Japan, its largest bilateral donor, also froze aid and made resumption contingent on accession to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). The coup itself triggered further "democracy sanctions". Confirming that the UK had frozen all direct development assistance, Secretary for International Development Clare Short said:
Pakistan needs a democratic government, which is transparent and AccountableÂ….obviously, we cannot provide development assistance to the military authorities in Pakistan. No new funds for programs linked to governmental institutions will be made available, and all our specialists who have been advising the Government have stopped work. The military required urgent and immediate access to the international financial system for its overall corporate interests and regime survival. As international pressure for return to civilian rule mounted, the Musharraf government pledged a series of devolution reforms both to "distract the international community from its coercive actions and to appease donor agencies that favour decentralisation" . Well aware of the hostile international environment, the military government appropriated the donor-friendly lexicon of "good governance", "devolution" , "grassroots empowerment" , and "bottom-up reforms". In this it had the support of a politically vocal coalition of local NGO leaders. It was also more than coincidental that the modes, methods and rhetoric of the Musharraf devolution plan closely resembled decentralisation reforms advocated by some donor agencies. Long before the 1999 coup, donors had led the debate on the need for decentralisation. The World Bank's "Framework for Civil Service Reforms in Pakistan" had strongly recommended "devolution of substantive authority" to lower tiers of government.
The Bank had also strongly emphasised the need for "re-examining the roles of District Commissioners and their Deputies" and for "safeguards to prevent their encroachment on local governments and intervention in their affairs". In February 1998, the Planning Commission's good governance group (G3) had conducted four provincial seminars on local government with UNDP assistance. Legislators, civil servants, NGO leaders and aid officials held extensive discussions. The World Bank urged the government to draw on this "consensus building process" and another of its reports, "Supporting Fiscal Decentralisation in Pakistan", to "make early strategic decisions on devolution". Soon after the 1999 coup, the UNDP, sensing an opportunity, approached the military government with generous offers of technical assistance. Donor officials based in Pakistan sought to redirect their pre-coup earmarked funds to Musharrraf's "democratic reforms" agenda. With little else on which to base its external legitimacy and anxious to co-opt donors, the military government made calculated overtures to enlist support for its "bottom up" reconstruction of Pakistan. At a crucial meeting held soon after the coup, in November 1999, the National Reconstruction Bureau chairman, Lt. General Tanvir Naqvi, requested UNDP to coordinate support to the government's "national reconstruction reform process" from other UN programs, as well as multilateral and bilateral partners. Thereafter the military government relocated the G3 group to the NRB and made it the focal point for external assistance to the devolution plan. UNDP re-activated its U.S.$1.89 million support to the G3 project, providing national consultants as well as a senior international governance advisor for NRB's devolution think tank.
UNDP advisors were given unprecedented access to high-powered NRB policy planning meetings. They drafted background papers, policy briefs and substantial parts of the original devolution plan. Through the Institutional Development Task Force, an inter-aid agency body on governance issues (renamed the Governance Group), UNDP also provided the main platform for donor coordination and discussion on the devolution plan. As General Musharraf consolidated his grip on the state, initial scepticism in some aid agencies over support to a military government gave way to heightened enthusiasm over the opportunity to reshape and redefine Pakistani governmental structures. Donors like the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) committed their "democratic governance programs" to the military's devolution project. In due course, multilateral financial institutions like the Asian Development Bank dedicated substantial resources for "the government's far-reaching Political Devolution and Administrative Decentralisation Plan, among the boldest governance reforms ever undertaken by a developing country". As these and other donors re-routed their governance resources to build Pakistani democracy from below, the military government was dismantling it from the top.
With General Musharraf simultaneously occupying the offices of chief executive (and later president), chief of army staff, chairman joint chiefs of staff and defence minister, military officers were appointed to top civilian posts in the federal and provincial governments. Political rallies were banned; parliament remained dissolved, and the constitution was put in abeyance. On 26 January 2000, the chief justice and half the bench of the Supreme Court were arbitrarily removed when they refused to take an oath under the military government's provisional constitution.
This destruction of the independence of the courts and the separation of powers did not change donor policy. In fact, donors continued to support Musharraf's devolution of power scheme even after the military resorted to coercive tactics in the elections for nazims. After 11 September 2001, even the international community's rhetorical emphasis on a return to democracy in Pakistan was put on the back burner as the Musharraf government joined the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Emboldened by his international acceptance, Musharraf used the newly created local governments to manipulate the run up to the national elections of October 2002. Despite extensive "pre-poll rigging" that led international observers to censure the 2002 electoral process as "seriously flawed", UNDP, DFID, CIDA and the Norwegian Agency for Development Co-operation (NORAD), continued to back a U.S.$5 million umbrella project on "Supporting Democratic Electoral Processes in Pakistan (SDEPP)" to provide "the basis for coordinated international donor community support for the preparation of truly democratic elections".
Donor agencies such as UNDP also supported the NRB's proposed constitutional amendments to "provide constitutional coverage to and ensure stability of the devolution initiatives" . Actually, only a small fraction of the constitutional amendments package, the August 2002 Legal Framework Order (LFO), relates to devolution. Many features of that package, now enshrined in the constitution through the 17th amendment, are widely seen as an attempt to retain direct military rule. Donors have not been ignorant of the military's intentions. A senior governance advisor of a multilateral bank says, "we knew that regime security was primary to devolution; it was obvious to us that the military was circumventing provinces to create new constituencies for local support while reaping the added benefit of donor support". Another aid official says, "we did and still have serious reservations about the local government plan but we could either equivocate and risk reform failure, or put our money behind [the military government] to gain a voice". Many other donors gave their support apparently more enthusiastically and are much more sanguine about the military's reformist zeal.
According to a senior DFID official, "mass empowerment was the real motivation behind devolution. Colonialism and centralisation, twin evils of Pakistan's bureaucratic institutions, can't be abolished overnight -- 101 elected districts are the answer". This unquestioning acceptance by some donors of Musharraf's "readiness to confront issues that eluded the country since independence" , has led many to violate even their own declared goals of "local ownership" and "stakeholder consultations" . While the overall objective of the UNDP Governance Program in Pakistan, for instance, is "to create an enabling environment within which the people of Pakistan can influence the direction and conduct of their governing institutions" , political parties, civil society organisations, professional associations, and even the civilian bureaucracy were largely bypassed in the policy planning process that eventually led to adoption of the devolution plan. Throughout the formulation, design, dissemination and implementation of that plan, UNDP even overlooked existing institutional arrangements, including the ministry of local government, opting instead to support the NRB.
This experience is a cautionary tale that in extreme situations, reforms carried out according to donor specifications can reinforce authoritarian regimes and undermine democracy. In the specific example of Musharraf's devolution, donor acceptance of the official rhetoric of good governance has, as a practical matter, undermined the democratic transition. Although criticised by most Pakistani political parties and independent human rights groups, donor acceptance and ownership of the devolution plan has certainly endowed the military's local government system with its own momentum and an otherwise missing semblance of legitimacy. With low levels of internal accountability, donor funding not only contradicts declared objectives of supporting democratic governance but also wastes scarce resources. The lack of domestic legitimacy means there are high risks of failure and adverse political impact. No matter how unintended, by supporting the regime's devolution plan, donors have reinforced the military's hold on power.
VII. DEMOCRATIC TRANSITION AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT
A. PREPARING THE GROUND
To protect the devolution scheme from interference by elected governments, Musharraf's LFO placed the four provincial Local Government Ordinances in that part of the 1973 constitution (the Sixth Schedule) that can only be amended with consent of the president. It was also required that provincial governments "shall, by law, establish a local government system and devolve political, administrative and financial responsibility and authority to the elected local representatives" .
This provision creates the false impression that devolution remains within a provincial framework but its protected constitutional status effectively precludes provinces from amending the LGO. With this constitutional cover, the military government could rely on its local clients ensure a favourable outcome in the October 2002 national elections. In the Punjab, where a majority of district and tehsil nazims could be counted on to support military-backed candidates for the national and provincial assemblies, they were encouraged to mobilise support openly for the pro-Musharraf PML-Q in return for generous developmental funds. Elsewhere, nazims were threatened and intimidated to support PML-Q candidates. In parts of Sindh and Baluchistan, wholesale transfers of district officers were ordered to blunt the authority of "hostile" nazims. Local governments proved instrumental in the military government's manipulation of these general elections, which international human rights and election observer groups termed "seriously flawed". With the military's backing, the PML-Q obtained the most seats in the National Assembly and the Punjab Provincial Assembly. "The blatant political use of elected councils in the general elections has proved beyond any doubt that the local bodies had been primarily created for that very purpose", said Afrasiab Khattak, then Chairman of the independent Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.
B. THE POLITICS OF DEVOLUTION
With the transfer of power to the elected national and provincial governments in November 2002, there are growing frictions between elected officials and local governments, which are perceived as tainted by their association with the military government and its political machinations. Elected politicians see in local bodies an alternative power structure that undercuts their authority. They have just cause since the power dynamics have been radically altered by the military's politically motivated delimitation of both provincial and national electoral constituencies (especially in the Punjab) and the installation of nazims. In Lahore, for instance, the area under the control of one town nazim includes several provincial and national electoral districts. Members of provincial assemblies (MPAs) and the National Assembly (MNAs) also feel that nazims have usurped their legitimate right to oversee development projects in their constituencies. In interviews with ICG, many legislators stress that their access to development projects is essential because Pakistani voters expect their representatives to deliver patronage and resolve their day-to-day problems. According to a pro-military PML-Q MNA from the NWFP, "If I tell my constituents that sanitation, water supply or police matters are now the responsibility of local governments, they turn around and say: we voted for you, not the nazim". An MNA of the same party and from a northern Punjab district asks, "if I don't deliver on public demands, what is my political future?" Opposition legislators from the PPP and PML-N agree, adding that President Musharraf had reserved many Public policy areas such devolution under the LFO. The President retains his control over the devolution scheme after its inclusion in the Sixth schedule of the constitution. This seriously limits the policy making options of politicians and encourages them to focus on local as opposed to regional or national issues. To assuage their demands for participation in local development schemes, the PML-Q central government decided in late November 2002 to allocate special funds to provincial and national legislators that would enable them to undertake development projects in their own constituencies. This reinforced the public perception that legislators remain the appropriate address for resolving local problems, not nazims.
While they can only identify electrification, gas and telecommunication projects, the official re-introduction of their developmental role has spurred local authorities to match them project for project. In many districts where the political relationship between nazims and legislators is less than friendly, energies are consumed by the need to build independent political capital, often through parallel and hence wasteful developmental schemes. In the Punjab, Sindh and NWFP, rivalries between nazims and legislators often cut across party lines. In many districts of the Punjab, for instance, even nazims and provincial or national legislators from the ruling and pro-Musharraf PML-Q are at loggerheads since the military either deliberately supported, or at least acquiesced in, the victories of mutually hostile candidates at the different tiers of government.
According to a PML-Q national legislator, "I sense a deliberate strategy on the part of the federal government to keep MNAs embroiled in a competition with the nazim, lest they begin to challenge the military's role at the centre".
An analyst agrees:
"Since divide-and-rule tactics are a favourite with the military, creating the district government as a rival power centre was part of a deliberate strategy to keep politicians and nazims at each other's throats and thus take pressures off the centre where the generals rule". Wary of these growing tensions, Prime Minister Zafarullah Khan Jamali instructed the NRB in February 2003 to work out a mutually acceptable mechanism for coordination between elected members of the local governments and parliamentarians. Several proposals are on the table (including participation of elected members in district development committee meetings), but the tussle between different tiers of government shows no signs of abating in the absence of any effective mechanisms for dispute resolution.
C. PROVINCIAL DISCONTENT
Provincial and local governments were on collision course from the start. Most opposition politicians see devolution as Islamabad's infringement on an already reduced sphere of provincial autonomy. "Devolution was bulldozed over the provinces by a military regime without taking political parties into confidence", says Shah Mehmood Qureshi of the largest opposition party, the PPP. "It was only a matter of time before the various tiers of government locked horns with each other". Most elected provincial governments, including those controlled by the ruling PML-Q, also view devolution with varying degrees of suspicion.
Provincial demands range from amendments to abolition of the Local Government Ordinance. "The LGO is silent on many issues and requires adjustments" , notes Raja Basharat, Punjab Minister for Local Government." A minister in Baluchistan from the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA, the six-party religious alliance) says, "Islamabad has usurped the administrative, legislative and financial powers of the provinces in the name of devolution which should be abolished".
Above all, there is consensus across the political spectrum that the local government scheme cannot work without adjusting it to Pakistan's federal parliamentary system. Even in the Punjab where a majority of district nazims remain loyal to the ruling PML-Q, Chief Minister Pervez Elahi concedes that "certain changes would have be made in the local government law to create linkages between the provincial and the district governments". In February 2003, the Punjab government created a devolution committee to address these problems and suggest reforms. Headed by the provincial minister for local government, the body includes provincial legislators and nazims. Such ad hoc measures can hardly rectify the distortions that have resulted from the military's manipulation of the political process. By purportedly depoliticising governance, for instance, the military has reinforced loyalties along the lines of biradari (caste, tribe, sub-region), thus actually aggravating social and political divisions in society. Centralised control, the absence of the rule of law, and patronage-based politics are promoting corruption and have increased the potential for confrontation and conflict between the federal units and the centre and within the provinces. In provinces where nazims and elected governments come from different political parties, the problems are predictably more severe.
Notes an analyst, "no sooner had elected governments assumed office than political rivalries, forced underground by authoritarian manipulation, resurfaced with a vengeance". In the NWFP, the MMA government is dominated by the Jamiat Ulema Islam (JUI), which had boycotted the local government elections. Ever since, zila nazims say, the MMA government has attempted to reassert control over local bodies by gradually usurping their already limited powers. "Release of development funds has been stalled and district nazims are ignored in almost all the important administrative matters". While tensions had been brewing for some time, they came to a head in late May 2003 when the MMA government introduced resolutions in the provincial assembly to remove the district nazims of Kohistan and Bannu for misuse of power and corruption.
The assembly speaker formed a special committee to deal with the cases. The threat of prosecution prompted all 24 NWFP district nazims to tender their resignations, citing "undue interference" from the provincial government. The resignations came against the backdrop of the military's stalled negotiations with the MMA to gain its support in the national parliament for Musharraf's Legal Framework Order. Analysts believe they were meant to pressure the MMA to support the LFO. The signal to the MMA government was "fall in line or face the consequences" . According to federal government sources, it was not surprising that the nazims, whether sensing a favourable political climate or heeding Islamabad's directive, deliberately bypassed provincial authorities and tendered their resignations directly to President Musharraf. A district nazim who spearheaded the revolt against the provincial government confirmed to ICG, "while most nazims had legitimate grievances against the MMA government, we had been bypassed since 14 August 2001, so this was a golden opportunity to make our voices heard".
Demonstrating an indifference to provincial autonomy, President Musharraf intervened, refusing the resignations and directing the MMA government to restore powers delegated to the nazims under the LGO within ten days. The NRB subsequently drafted new rules in consultation with the provincial government and the nazims but little has changed on the ground. The tussle between nazims and provincial governments is far from over. The military's political use of its devolution scheme is further illustrated by President Musharraf's benign neglect of -- some say blessing for -- the Punjab government's plans to pressure and remove nazims with links to opposition parties. In Lahore city, for instance, it reportedly colluded in ousting Ahmed Hassan, the pro PML-N nazim of Data Gunj Bakhsh Town, through a no-confidence motion. "I have been a victim of a conspiracy hatched by the provincial PML-Q authorities" , he claimed. Several PPP and PML-N tehsil and district nazims told ICG they are under intense official pressure to join the PML-Q. In provinces where the ruling PML-Q has formed coalition governments, the devolution scheme has fared no better.
In Baluchistan, nazims have appealed to the courts to stop provincial interference in district affairs. Rahim Kakar, the district nazim of Quetta City, says, "I have had to approach the High Court to stop provincial intrusions in the affairs of the city district government". The roots of local opposition to devolution run much deeper in this province than battles over political turf. The scheme is widely seen by the Baluch as yet another attempt by a Punjabi-dominated military to usurp their political and economic rights. While they accept decentralisation to district levels in principle, Baluch leaders and academics are quick to point out that the administrative and financial autonomy guaranteed to the federal units in the 1973 constitution has been undermined by continued military rule. History warns that central intrusions into provincial affairs can seriously exacerbate ethno-regional tensions. In the 1970s, the dismissal of the provincial National Awami Party-JUI government in Baluchistan culminated in a bloody insurgency against the central government. Several thousand Baluch were killed in the military's counter-insurgency operations. Worryingly, the deepening sense of Baluch alienation from centralised military rule is already manifesting itself in periodic attacks on oil and gas installations.
In Sindh, local rivalries aggravated by the military's political manipulation mar provincial-local government relations. The military's decision to cobble together a fractious coalition that includes the PML-Q, the MQM and the Sindh Democratic Alliance rather than allow the PPP, which has the most seats in the assembly, to form the provincial government is largely responsible for heightened ethnic, regional and factional infighting. As pro-PPP district nazims pay the price for their political affiliation, Sindhi resentment against the Punjabi-dominated military is on the rise. With memories of the execution of a Sindhi Prime Minister by a military ruler still fresh, the Sindhis have little faith in the legitimacy of the state and its institutions, least of all in the local government scheme. In the Muhajir-dominated urban centres of Sindh, which have repeatedly witnessed violent ethnic conflict, local rivalries are already assuming a dangerous shape. The MQM, which boycotted local elections, opposes control of the city district and several town governments by its archrival, the Jamaat-i-Islami. Senior MQM leaders, who hold important posts in the provincial government, including that of governor, say it is only a matter of time before they bring no-confidence motions against JI nazims.
According to JI city district council members, "the provincial governor and the local government minister have left no stone unturned to undermine the city nazim by blocking the devolution of municipal bodies, slashing budgets and transferring officials". While the federal government has acted to ease tensions by removing the local government minister, informed observers fear that the JI-MQM dispute could intensify to engulf Karachi in yet another cycle of violence and instability. Armed clashes between activists have already claimed several lives. Growing tensions between the centre and the smaller provinces are also prominent in the increasingly strident criticism of the devolution scheme by Baluch, Sindhi and Pashtun ethno-regional parties. Rejecting the military's involvement in politics in general, and demanding more independence for the federal units, parties such as the NWFP-based Awami National Party, the Pashtun-dominated Pakhtoonkhawa Milli Awami Party, the Baluchistan National Party and Baluchistan National Movement, the Sindhi Taraqi Pasand Party and the Jeay Sindh Mahaz, among others, believe that the devolution scheme is yet another means for the Punjabi-dominated military to undermine provincial rights. This growing resentment might not translate into armed conflict, given the military's power. If left to fester, however, it could, as in the past, still turn violent. Resentment of the devolution plan might well prove the catalyst.
While the NRB claims it is too early to know whether the new administrative arrangements are working, most officials in the field and nazims told ICG that law enforcement has emerged as a particularly serious problem. According to an official of the federal ministry of interior, "the poor performance of the local governments in relation to the enforcement of rule of law could force all four provincial governments to reconsider the whole devolution scheme". In Sindh, Baluchistan and the NWFP, provincial authorities complain that nazims are constrained by political affiliations in controlling law and order. In February 2003, the Punjab government gave district revenue officers power to try offences under the local and special laws for three months. This partial return of magisterial powers to executive officers is a serious blow to the devolution plan and has fuelled speculation that it will not last long.
Although President Musharraf and Prime Minister Jamali have ordered the provinces to implement Police Order 2002 by 14 August 2004, it is unlikely they will comply. And with demands for restructuring of the LGO echoing in provincial and central legislatures by government ministers and opposition politicians alike, doubts about its survival continue to grow. For those with stakes in the system, including the nazims, President Musharraf's backing remains the mainstay of their hopes for political survival. The devolution scheme is also still backed by a number of donors in the belief that "new pro-devolution constituencies" will ensure the viability of the system. This optimism, however, is not widely shared.
"Lacking internal legitimacy", says Ahmed Rashid, "the devolution plan faces the political and legal ambiguities common to projects in which authoritarian means are deployed to achieve democratic goals". Since key stakeholders were bypassed in the process, it is not surprising that devolution remains controversial with political parties, provincial governments and the bureaucracy. Without their support, it is vulnerable, especially because of its association with the military. A Sindh nazim says, "you can't legitimise a system of government by putting it in a glass case.
Legislators and parties will have to be taken into confidence if the system is to last". According to Senator Sanaullah Baluch of the Baluchistan National Party, "A system devoid of legitimacy and propped on military crutches can hardly be expected to outlive its creator". There is indeed pressing need for the devolution of political, administrative and economic power in Pakistan but any scheme has to take into account the legitimate concerns of elected politicians and provincial governments.
Party-based, direct elections for posts in any local government scheme are crucial if there is to be electoral accountability of local officials and the divisive impact of non-partisan elections on political affiliations is to be curtailed. Provincial grievances will have to be addressed through meaningful step towards decentralisation of administrative and financial powers. Provinces must also be consulted and involved in the timely implementation of police reforms. To make devolution viable, the financial autonomy of local units of government will have to be enhanced with provisions for raising additional revenue through taxation. And provincial transfers to local tiers of government must be adjusted to reflect local fiscal needs, underdevelopment and poverty levels. Given the paucity of local resources, international assistance is also essential to successful devolution. However, the international community should link financial and technical assistance to time-bound progress on federal-provincial devolution, fiscal decentralisation and police reforms. In its present form, the Musharraf local government scheme has failed to give any lasting legitimacy to military rule. But the political engineering that accompanies it has strained a fragile polity by exacerbating sub-national divisions and fanning provincial grievances over reduced financial and administrative autonomy. Now that the military and MMA have reached a deal on the LFO, there is speculation that Musharraf could choose to reshape the devolution scheme in the NWFP and Baluchistan to assuage the concerns of the religious alliance. In Punjab, devolution is likely to be retained with no more than minor adjustments. In Sindh, political rivalries between nazims and provincial ministers (especially in Karachi) will continue to mar the prospects of any meaningful devolution and increase the potential for conflict, particularly in the provincial capital. For now, the coercive powers at the military's disposal, combined with international support, favour the present devolution scheme. But centralisation of powers, denial of provincial autonomy and the absence of any meaningful public participation in government will almost inevitably cause it to unravel. In the final analysis, the fate of President Musharraf's devolution plan remains linked to his own.