The Government of Punjab has revived the divisional tier, abolished in 2001 by recreating divisional commissioners, to improve coordination, supervision and to ensure effective oversight over local governments. It has created a sense of victory for the bureaucracy (DMG), jubilation amongst the opponents of Musharraf, despair in the reformers, uncertainty amongst the nazims and pessimism in the NGOs and the donors. Thus, there is a need to clarify questions like what was abolished in 2001? What is being revived? Does it mean a reversal of the local government system? Are such actions legal? The local government system considered the divisional offices to be an unnecessary and a costly bureaucratic layer in a decentralised framework. Accordingly it was explicitly abolished under Section 182 of the Local Government Ordinances (LGOs) which required the closing down by December 2001 the operations of only those divisional, regional, circle and zonal offices which were performing local government functions. Amendments were also made in the Land Revenue Act in 2001 to abolish the divisions and the commissioner whose powers were assigned to the Executive District Officer (EDO) Revenue. In the Act the deputy commissioner was replaced with District Officer (DO) Revenue to exercise the powers of the collector. Under Section 30B of the LGO the district officer (Revenue) was empowered to act and perform the functions of collector. In 2005, efforts were made to redress the grievances of the provinces. Under section 28 the DCO was made responsible to call for reports from local governments. Section 14 was added which requires the zila nazim to nominate a deputy district officer at Tehsil level for the purpose of liaison. Under section 129 the CM has been empowered to suspend a nazim. Section 132 of the Local Government Commission was further empowered to resolve intergovernmental disputes. For provincial restructuring a new section 133-A was added in 2005 which requires that the provincial departments be made compatible with the features of the Devolution Plan by December 2005. Therefore, legally the provincial government can create any provincial administrative structure to perform its functions relating to local governments which includes formulation of laws, rules, polices, plans and performance standards. Despite the above efforts and the institutional arrangements in place the provincial governments still feel a need for the divisional tier. One genuine reason to revive the divisional tier is that the provincial departments, local government commissions and finance commissions even today are not able to perform their new functions of oversight and performance analysis. They do not have the capacity or the system to consolidate and analyse the data from the large number of district governments, TMAs and union administrations. The manual systems for collecting, consolidating, processing and reporting of information at the local government level is not capable of supporting the extensive provincial requirements of information and coordination of a devolved set-up. Disbanding the divisional tier comprising divisional directors and not creating an equivalent capacity at the provincial level to manage the devolution process in 2001 was not a right decision. The divisional tier will improve the working of the provincial departments by creating additional planning, oversight and coordination capacity. Amendments in the LGO are not required as long as the divisional tier performs only the functions assigned to the provincial government under the LGOs. However, if powers of the local gents are to be governments are assigned to the divisional tier then approval of the president would be required unless the Sixth Schedule protection expires. The powers of EDO Revenue as commissioner are provided in the Land Revenue Act and not in LGO and the provinces are competent to amend such powers of the EDO. On the other hand the powers of the DO Revenue as collector are also specified in the LGO and cannot be curtailed without sanction of the president. However, the functions to be assigned to the decentralised offices of the local governments are not specified in the LGO. These are elaborated in the provincial and local governments Rules of Business which are formulated by the provincial government. Hence, the provincial governments can always amend on their own the Rules and assign work to local government offices keeping in view their particular circumstances. The perception that creation of the divisional tier for managing the provincial functions means a reversal of the local government system is simply a knee jerk reaction and not based on proper analysis or interpretation of the laws. The creation of the tier is not the problem. It is the secretive manner in which the CM is implementing the changes which is the real problem. The nazims are being thrown out of their offices and commissioners have started bossing the elected representatives. The chief secretary and secretaries have started a parallel system in the districts. Instead of tinkering with the system through directives the provincial governments should in a transparent manner make the changes necessary to resolve any political, legal, institutional, administrative and financial issues facing local governments preferably as part of one comprehensive package. Sustainable improvement can only be achieved by strengthening institutions and systems and not through centralising powers in vested interest groups and individuals. In conclusion the local government system will be reversed only if the local councils are disbanded and the nazim is no more the executive head, which would require an amendment in Article 140-A of the constitution. However, this may happen when the Sixth Schedule protection is not there as Zardari will not grant sanction to such amendments. The PPP government needs to resolve the issue on priority basis as things may get out of hand with cases piling up in courts and people coming out on the street due to lack of basic social services, thereby giving anti-democratic forces another reason for intervening and dismissing the PPP government. The writer is a former member of the National Reconstruction Bureau. E-mail: riazkhancrm@msn.com