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Monday, 14 August, 2000, 20:09 GMT 21:09 UK
Musharraf unveils local election plan
General Musharraf
General Musharraf said the voting age would be lowered
By Zaffar Abbas in Islamabad

Pakistan's military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, has unveiled a comprehensive devolution plan for the country, aimed at transferring substantial power to hundreds of elected district and town committees.

Election for these local bodies would be held from December this year to August next year.

In a speech on national television, he said the representation of women in these elected bodies was being increased but it had been decided to stick to the previous practice of holding such elections on a non-party basis.

Greater power

General Musharraf said that for the first time in the country's history the district councils were being allowed to function independently and with more power and authority.

Under the new scheme, he said, even the police chief and the civil servants in the district would be answerable to the elected council and not to the provincial or the central government.

In order to attract more people towards electoral politics, the minimum age of the voter was being lowered from the age of 21 to 18. At the same time at least one-third of the seats in all these local councils would be reserved for women.

'Petty rivalries'

General Musharraf declared that these elections would be on a non-party basis and said this was being done to discourage petty political rivalries at the district council level.

He also ignored the demand of the religious minorities to abolish the system of separate electorates and said only the present system could ensure their representation in the district councils.

Prominent political parties in the country have been critical of the new local government system, which they have said was not workable.

But General Musharraf rejected the criticism and said such people were against his plan to strengthen what he called the grassroots democracy in the country.

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See also:

06 Aug 00 | South Asia
Musharraf urged to hold elections
23 Mar 00 | South Asia
Pakistan sets election timetable
23 Mar 00 | South Asia
Analysis: Waiting for democracy
23 Mar 00 | South Asia
Profile: General Pervez Musharraf
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