WHILE assuring that it was only a temporary measure dictated by the worsening law and order situation Prime Minister Gilani has announced that the countrywide elections for the local bodies, due next month, were being postponed and 'honest and neutral' bureaucrats were to be appointed to look after local governments for the interim period. How long this period will be has not been spelled out. It was pointed out that this did not mean the abolition of the system. Advice is to be given to the President within four days to dissolve the bodies to make necessary legal changes including restoration of magistracy. The PM also announced that the controversial Police Order 2002 would be revised. The idea behind the present district government system was to bring democracy to the grassroots and to rid the common man of the stranglehold of a bureaucracy continuing to maintain a colonial mindset. The much-trumpeted devolution of power however turned out to be a ploy to extend the military government's control down to the union council level. The district governments were subsequently used by General Musharraf to hold a fraudulent referendum and gather audience for his public functions. As the federal government failed to devolve any of its own powers to the provinces while it took away crucial functions from them and handed them over to the districts governments, the exercise led to complaints of the abridgement of provincial autonomy. With the tested and tried system of magistracy and divisional commissionerates having been dispensed with, law and order situation deteriorated while inter-district coordination was weakened. The Police Ordinance 2002, which among other things separated the investigation and operational departments led to widespread complaints of corruption and delays in the dispensation of justice. Jail visits by judicial officers revealed that there were many cases of detenus who had not been tried even after seven or eight months as their challans had not been submitted. The decision to review the Police Order is therefore in line with public demand. The governments of Punjab, NWFP and Balochistan have already expressed reservations about the local government system in its present form while Sindh is yet to take a decision on the matter. There is a need to thoroughly thrash out proposals, which are being advanced to improve the system. What is needed is a set up that does not have the flaws of the system introduced by the military government. Equally important is to ensure that the new system does not make elected representatives subservient to bureaucracy. The new arrangement should be introduced after a consensus has been evolved among the provinces.