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Local Governance System

Noorghazi ShahGarh, Muzaffargarh

In wake of the 2010 floods, the PFM team realized that half of their countrymen were inundated with flooding. Although the international community was moving to provide immediate relief, very few were thinking about how to avert this disaster in a sustainable manner. PFM, under the management of The Pakpur Foundation (also headed by Haroon Khawaja, Chairman PFM), decided to analyze the problem and provide solutions after thoroughly reviewing the state of affairs.

Understanding the needs of a common citizen could be done through several means. PFM delved in the root of the problem by developing a block-based master planned mixed-use village in the flood affected areas of Shahgarh, approximately 12 km from Muzaffargarh. It was during the process of establishing this village, living and working alongside the common man that we began to understand the life and challenges of the ordinary citizen of Pakistan—who we generically named Mohammad Bashir.

If one desires to run the affairs of the state and does not take the time to learn from and care for the needs of Mohammad Bashir —the results will continue to be what these have been since the past 7 decades. The village was planned with all necessary amenities for a basic community including proper social infrastructure with primary school, vocational training center, health clinic, commercial area and a mosque. Additionally, brick paved roads, water supply through an RO plant, innovative and practical underground sewerage, flood protection boundaries, and parks were provided for civil infrastructure. Finally, while understanding the basic needs of Mohammad Bashir, a housing unit with one room, one bath, and boundary wall was constructed (with a provision of adding two more rooms).

A uniquely designed process was put in place for management of the community. Whereas the norm is to build and then handover, PFM consciously decided to involve the residents from the word go. After a defined process, PFM invited the selected residents of first block to live on the construction site with their families in an organized tent village. While living in tents, the families were given basic ration and asked to provide one person for labor during the construction of their homes. These measures reduced construction costs and ensured community buy-in. The entire process of establishment of the village was quite successful due to active community participation. However, soon after the first year, the honeymoon was over. Although strong community development systems were put in place to manage the basic amenities such as the school, RO plant, security, cleanliness, and conflict resolution, PFM started facing criticism from residents due to the lack of electricity, gas and regular water. After several attempts to find a proper off-grid solution, nothing was found to be sustainable. Finally, a small transformer had to be placed on the site to facilitate connections to the main power lines. Although the power issue was resolved, the high running costs of the RO plant coupled with lack of natural gas led to several residents eventually leaving their homes in the village. While 80% occupancy was maintained for the first three years, it continued to drop all the way to the 60% range.

After much reflection, it was determined that the underlying causes of the challenges were based on the selection criteria at the outset, unreal expectations by the community and perception of unfulfilled promises. PFM thought they would be able to provide off-grid solutions, but were not able to do so. Likewise, PFM at the early stages, did not understand the long term costs of an RO plant and were not able to sustain this facility through community support. Finally, gas was a source of fuel that all were too accustomed to in the area and living without it became too difficult.

The residents of Noorghazi Shahgarh continued to gel together through the community development and training process over the years and eventually were able to use their collective community power to force local authorities to provide municipal water and natural gas to the community. This “New Planned Village” today is a vibrant community hustling with life and activity while proving that local people of even the not-so-prosperous districts have the talent and ability to run their own affairs smartly, provided that they are given a chance, are endowed with training and are delegated with authority.

Khair Mohammad Leghari, Jhudo, Mirpur Khaas

Equipped with lessons from the field, PFM took their vision to one of the remotest parts of interior Sindh—where the 2012 floods had left people living in water for almost a year. When PFM surveyed the area, the conditions were horrendous. After careful selection of an affected village, PFM approached a local influential and asked him to donate a portion of his land to change the future of his laborers (muzaras). Contrary to what one would expect, the influential offered land for free to build the PFM village and to transfer land rights to the laborers in three years. This simple achievement of land ownership for such folks is simply unprecedented in itself.

With a clear plan and clear expectations by all stakeholders, PFM was able to capitalize on the learning of the previous community and achieved 100% occupancy, 100% community participation and complete harmony in a community (that is 50% Muslim and 50% Hindu). Today, this mixed-use village (consisting of 5 marla basic housing units) thrives with phenomenal success.