In the political history of Pakistan very little attention has been given to promote understanding of people on political and democratic rights. State and successive political regimes have preferred to only deal with people in a non-political manner thus denying the democratic and electoral rights of citizens. During political regimes or military rules the restriction imposed on freedom of expression, democratic activities and political action also further aggravated the despondency in the democratic conditions of the society.

During beginning of 2000 government has announced a Local Government Plan. The plan entails to devolve power to the basic level with an enhanced representation of women, minorities, farmers and labor. The plan entails devolving main state functions to local tiers of governance through people’s elected bodies. It is first time in the history of Pakistan that such major functions of executive management, legislation, revenue, policing, land management, development planning and resource utilization will be transferred to elected representatives of people. These essential functions and powers will be devolved to basic tiers of democratic institutions set-up at the village, union council, tehsil and district levels.

The plan poses many new challenges, opportunities, and risks for the civil society. In order to make these structures take up these challenges and perform their functions effectively and efficiently there is a need to build institutional capacity of these structures, enhance level of social capital at all these tiers and build the required level of capacity of elected representatives. Moreover, the public has to educated on their democratic rights, political functions of these government structures and significance of people’s participation in major planning, monitoring and accountability functions are some essential inputs required before these bodies are formed till August 2001.

The process also demands a mass mobilization, sensitization of people on issues involving in this new governance system and helps them take informed choices.

Considering all these factors some like-minded organizations in Pakistan launched “Democratic Rights and Citizens Empowerment Program”. The program was implemented in 106 districts of Pakistan through the infrastructure of civil society groups and NGOs.

To promote political education among people to exercise their democratic rights for increasing people’s participation in political structure/electoral process. Promoting the concept of good governance through a process of democratic and electoral education of citizen (disadvantaged, women, minorities, Labor and Peasants). To revive the confidence of people on the political and electoral processes through collective civil society actions.

Build the capacity of a core group of social and political activists to undertake democratic education of citizens in general; voters in Pakistan. Create a group of politically sensitive and motivated people active in local, provincial; national level of political processes. Public sensitization and voter’s education on devolution plan at national level. Aware citizen/voters/ candidates on the basic local government function, its significance and role. Create constructive and positive civic engagements among people interest groups, political forces and civil society organizations. Create new body of knowledge on local government functions practices and political representation.

DRCEP Report: Devolution – A Civil Society Perspective