PPP, MQM meeting: Local govt issue still blocking progress

Published: September 4, 2011

Both parties went through several rounds of negotiation on the issue but it is still likely to remain the main hurdle.

KARACHI: 

As the violence in the provincial capital subsides, leaders from the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and their estranged coalition allies, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), are to meet on Sunday (today) at the Governor’s House in Karachi to discuss a compromise system of local government in the province that would be acceptable to both parties.

In an apparent concession to the PPP’s political base in Sindh, the negotiations are to be led by Federal Religious Affairs Minister Khursheed Shah, an MNA from Sukkur. He heads a four-member negotiating committee that includes Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and Federal Interior Minister Rehman Malik.

The MQM is likely to be represented by Sindh Governor Ishratul Ebad and the party’s deputy convenor Farooq Sattar, an MNA from Karachi.

The local government system has been the bone of contention between the MQM and the PPP. The former insists that the system put in place in 2001 by former president Musharraf’s administration be restored in its entirety.

The ruling party, however, does not want that system since it favours the MQM both demographically (in terms of how district boundaries are set up) as well as by political design: the PPP prefers a system where the provinces retain most of the powers given up by the federal government.

Both parties have gone through several rounds of negotiation on the issue. The PPP had initially announced a restoration of the commissioner system – a system of government dating back to the colonial era – but then backtracked after the MQM strongly protested.

At first the PPP allowed the restoration of the Musharraf-era nazim system in Karachi and Hyderabad – the MQM’s major strongholds. However, after strong protest from its supporters in the rest of Sindh, the PPP tried restoring the nazim system throughout the province.

That promise, however, proved to be politically unacceptable to the PPP’s supporters and so – after a period of violence that saw more than 400 people killed in two months alone – the two parties are now set to start talks on a compromise solution that may be acceptable to both.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2011.

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