Local Government Forum held at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS)

Institute of Development & Economic Alternatives (IDEAS, Dehleez and Mahbub ul Haq Research Centre at LUMS recently held a dialogue on local governments, Local Government Forum 2023. The Forum aimed to facilitate dialogue between members of civil society, political representatives, policy makers, academics, and the judiciary on reforms needed to strengthen the institutional design and administrative capacity of local governments, unlock their fiscal potential, and to make local governance inclusive and accountable. Strengthening local governments is not only important for the health of Pakistan’s federalism and governance, but it has become critical in light of emerging challenges associated with urbanisation, climate change and Pakistan’s economic stagnancy.

The event was held at the Lahore University of Management Sciences on Friday, 25th August 2023 and was well-attended by more than 300 participants over the course of the day. Four engaging panel sessions explored the various facets of local governance including the institutional design and structure of local governments, fiscal management and accountability, reforming civil service for effective local governance, and making local governments more inclusive. Prominent panelists included Senator Dr. Sania Nishtar from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Dr, Miftah Ismail (Former Federal Minister of Finance), Dr. Ishrat Hussain (Former Advisor to the PM on Institutional Reforms and Austerity) and Mr. Fawad Hassan Fawad (Former Principal Secretary to the PM). The panelists drew from their own experiences in government and civil service in Pakistan, as well as global evidence and best practice on local governments on why effective local governance is the need of the hour in our country.

Senator Dr Sania Nishtar spoke on the occasion 
“People at the helm of affairs have to be committed to integrity. There is no dearth of money, institutions or good people in the system, however there is a small group of rent-seeking individuals holding the entire system hostage" 

Former Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Fawad Hasan Fawad was of the opinion that
“Both federal and provincial govts have failed to address the issues of the common man. Our own experience and global best practice tells us that local governance is the best way to empower people” 

Mary James Gill hoped that Local Governments
"Emphasize on examining the contextual relevance and the rationale behind the representation of minorities in government in deciding the criteria of who gets to sit on reserved seats." 

The closing address for the event was delivered by Honourable Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, Senior Judge of the Supreme Court of Pakistan in which he explained through specific examples how the judiciary has historically tried to enable the legal functionality of local governments. As an area of further research, the honorable justice highlighted parallels that can be drawn between the three-tiered legal justice system and the local government system.

The event was organised by a group of academics and activists across IDEAS, MHRC and Dehleez including Dr. Ali Cheema (LUMS, IDEAS) and Mr. Ahmad Iqbal (Founder Dehleez).

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