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'Pakistani elite still rule the roost'

A new report says Pakistan's attempts to devolve authority has failed to empower the people as the elite still hold key positions in the country.

world Updated: Jan 29, 2008 20:28 IST

Pakistan's attempts to devolve authority has failed to empower the people as the elite still hold key positions, a new report says.

The influence of tribes, families and political affiliations is still paramount, said an analysis of the characteristics of the district nazims or administrators conducted by the Social Policy and Development Centre (SPDC).

The annual report for 2006-07 titled "Devolution and Human Development in Pakistan" did observe some positive features of the system like greater representation of marginalized groups, especially women.

At the same time, it focused on the "state capture" of administrative positions by the local elite.

"Although wider representation has been given to under-privileged groups like women, real empowerment has been frustrated by election malpractices and elite capture at the local level," Dawn on Monday quoted the report as saying.

"The political culture is still in the hands of local elite," the report stated while naming the scions of six elite families of Punjab who were elected in the 2001 and 2005 local government polls.

"It will take years to overcome and dismantle the deep-rooted power structure (so that) common people could be empowered to effectively influence decisions that affect their lives," said the study, which Dawn noted was "a candid commentary on Pakistan's socio-economic and political scene".

SPDC is a private research organisation funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) that for the last several years has been releasing annual review documents.

The report also makes a forceful plea for second-generation reforms to realise the full potential of decentralisation.

"Both the government and political parties have violated the Election Commission's instructions and openly supported their representatives" in the 2001 and 2005 local bodies' elections that were meant to be conducted on a non-party basis, the report said, adding that the chief ministers of the four provinces openly worked for their candidates.

"Why did the political parties violate election rules?" the report asked and also provided the answer: because district nazims had far more administrative and financial powers than a member of the national or provincial assemblies.