Detailed Notes on Basic Democracies System 1959-70

Fri, 10/11/2013 - 03:58 -- Umar Farooq

Basic Democracies System 1959-70

On 27th October 1958, after a decade long political turmoil in the country, the army took over and General Ayub Khan became the chief Marshal Law administrator and Field Marshal. He was welcomed by the people of the country. On the first anniversary of his government, on 27th October, 1959, General Ayub Khan addressed the nation and announced the introduction of a new system of government or basic democracies system to bring democracy to the door steps of the people and to have "direct participation of the people managing their affairs through representative bodies not far from their own villages and Mohallas”.

Under the Presidential ordinance a four tiered hierarchical system of local-self-government was introduced, namely

  1. The Union Council
  2. The Tehsil council
  3. The District Council
  4. The Divisional Council

The Union Council

This was the lowest but the basic tier of the system. The Union Council consisted of 5-8 villages of about 8,000- 15,000 population. There used to be 10-15 electoral wards and from each ward one councilor was to be elected. This means each ward was represented by one basic democrat elected by 1,000-1,500 voters on adult franchise basis (21 years of age)

  1. The members of the Union Council had to elect a Chairman who used to be the executive head of the Council.
  2. These councils were given judicial, as well as public services functions in addition to their economic developmental functions.
  3. With the approval of the Divisional commissioner, the Union Council could levy any tax and impose rates, tolls and fees.
  4. The functions of a union councils consisted of a variety of subjects mostly economic development. 
  5. They were also assigned the duty of agriculture, industrial and communication development and food production development.
  6. The U/councils were also assigned some welfare and administrative functions like lighting of public ways, maintenance of public streets, public places, reconciliation marriage and child birth registration, death registration, divorce registration, and they also made a joint electoral college.
  7. Finally it was converted into an electoral college for election of the members of provincial and national assemblies and then, a life –long president or king.

The Tehsil Council

The next higher tier was called Tehsil council. There was no election to this council and the members consisted of some official and some non-official members. The non-official members werethe chairmen of all the Union Councils within the Tehsil and the official members were the heads of all the nation building departments in the sub-division/ tehsil.     

  1. The no. of official members was equal to those of non-official members.
  2. This tier had no executive or any other function except to pass on the recommendations of the Union Councils to the District council. In this sense this was just a coordinating body. This council was headed by the Assistant Commissioner of the area. In deed this was an elite club where all the officials and non-official elites had to meet once a blue moon.

Functions of the Tehsil Council

These functions were left vague. They were primarily coordinating bodies and a communication link through which public policy was channeled to the U/C.

The District Council

The most important tier was the district council. The head of the council was the Deputy Commissioner of the district and the Vice-Chairman used to be selected from amongst the chairmen of the tehsil council / Union Councils by the deputy commissioner. This council consisted of elected and non-elected members or official and non- official members. The non-official members were the Chairmen of the tehsil councils and chairmen of the Municipal committees within the district to represent both urban and rural areas. 

  1. One half of the appointed members were from amongst the chairmen of the Union Councils.
  2.  The no. of official and non-official members was equal.
  3. This tier had vast financial and executive powers. In addition to the development functions, it could levy any tax. The deputy Commissioner had to coordinate the activities of the departments.    
  4. The functions and powers of the DC were divided into ‘compulsory’ and ‘optional’. Compulsory functions included the provision and maintenance of schools, libraries, hospitals, public roads and play grounds, as well as protection of food stuff, regulation of traffic, and measure to increase agriculture production.
  5. The optional functions included the council enjoyed wide jurisdiction over education, Culture, social welfare, economic welfare, public health and public works.

The Divisional Council

The upper most tier was the divisional council, headed by the Divisional commissioner. The members of the divisional councils consisted of the Deputy Commissioners as ex-officio members, the Vice-chairmen of the districts within the division, the divisional level officers as official members, some other prominent persons to be selected by the commissioner and some were recommended by the deputy commissioners. The no. of official and non-official members was equal.