A khuli kutchery (town hall meeting) was organized by the District Administration in compliance with recent provincial government instructions under which each district must organize assigned number of khuli kutcheries (town hall meetings) and revenue darbars (revenue courts). About 300 people participated in the khuli kutchery which was chaired by Nowshera’s Deputy Commissioner (DC), Mir Reza Ozgen. Representatives of all key departments were also present. The Foundation arranged participation of its local CSO partners.
For over two hours, the District Administration heard public complaints and suggestions. Where possible, immediate action was authorized in response to issues raised by citizens. In other cases, follow up was pledged. “Outsiders have encroached upon our common property (shamlat),” complained a local man. He demanded government action to remove the encroachments. The Foundation-trained CSOs were distinctive as they presented issues through written petitions which were signed by a significant number of beneficiary households. This confirmed that the issue affected multiple households and was not the desire or requirement of one or two individuals. “We would like the government to reopen our public library in Pabbi (Nowshera) which was closed around 2003. It will give local people access to information and reading material,” said a young CSO activist presenting a petition to the DC who penned his instructions on it. The petitions also helped maintain a record of public demands, and responses taken by related LAs. “When issues raised by citizens are backed by evidence, it helps the government to take action,” advised the DC in his concluding remarks. A partner CSO reported that in response to its petition, the AC Pabbi visited the local area the day after the khuli kutchery, to inspect the stormwater drain that was clogged due to lack of regular dredging/cleaning.
The Foundation also filmed the khuli kutchery, featuring it in one of its 8-episode series of TV talk shows: Tabdeeli Awam Sey (People-Driven Change). The show included the DC Nowshera’s interview, in which he talked about how mechanisms like khuli kutcheries are promoting citizen-government engagement.