Tensions within Sindh’s leading party PPP that had been escalating over some weeks, chiefly as a consequence of the actions of former provincial home minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza, have begun to reach a rather dangerous point. Under pressure from pro-Mirza members of the party, the Sindh leadership has reportedly agreed that the local bodies system initiated by the Pervez Musharraf government in 2001 will be abandoned and the previous one before it, dating back to legislation in 1979 will be restored. The 2001 system had recently been revived through a controversial ordinance, moved essentially to mollify the MQM.
The fact that the Mirza camp has succeeded in having this decision overturned at a high-level meeting held in Karachi, signals many things. For starters, it marks a divide within the PPP itself. Attempts by mediators sent by President Asif Ali Zardari to tackle the situation did not really work and one dissenting element needed to be pacified. Further, how will the MQM respond, if the 1979 local bodies law is in fact brought back? Are we to see yet another rift between the coalition partners who have already broken up and rejoined hands multiple times?
The situation is quite obviously a highly unstable one. It is not what Sindh needs. Nor is it good for our democracy as a whole. Too many fractures which occur at one time are difficult to heal. The assurances given by the PPP parliamentary party to dissenters backing Mirza may have some temporary impact in holding things together. But in the longer term, problems are almost certain to arise. Things are beginning to tumble out of control, rather like a house of cards. It is now obvious that Mirza still commands considerable influence within the PPP, even after his resignation as home minister and from his party post. How things will be handled now is difficult to predict. But in Sindh, the party’s base, the omens are not good and it is hard to see how solutions will be chalked out by the trouble-shooters sent in by the top leadership to try and tackle affairs.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 17th, 2011.
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