After marathon talks on Monday, the Pakistan Peoples Party and its key ally Muttahida Qaumi Movement struck a deal after narrowing down their differences on the contentious issue of the local government system for Sindh.
Negotiations between senior leaders of the two parties had continued late in the night amidst reports that a new ordinance is likely to be issued today (Tuesday) in light of recommendations made at meetings of PPP’s core committee.
According to sources, the ordinance would be issued as an ad-hoc arrangement till both parties evolve a consensus on a new local government bill. Reports say the MQM is insisting on the restoration of the Sindh Local Government Ordinance (SLGO) 2001 with minor adjustments in place of the existing commissionerate system.
Leaders from both parties refused to speak to The Express Tribune when contacted. But sources claimed that after the issue of the ordinance, the government would pass a law within two months to hold local bodies (LB) election in the province.
At a meeting of PPP and MQM leaders at Bilawal House on Monday, President Asif Ali Zardari hoped that the two sides would soon finalise their deliberations for conducting LB elections.
According to sources, the president’s decision to hold LB elections was made in the wake of MQM’s growing frustration with the deadlock on the issue.
“The MQM had once again decided to quit the coalition government and resume its negotiation with PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif, whom they are scheduled to meet at Punjab House today (Tuesday). This prompted the president to reach out to its key coalition partner,” a senior PPP leader said.
The MQM is also demanding control of district police – however, the PPP is unwilling to give up these departments to the city government. “These departments are under the provincial government, but we will follow whatever decision is made by our leadership,” said Sindh Local Government Minister Agha Siraj Durrani.
At a recent meeting with MQM chief Altaf Hussain in London, President Asif Ali Zardari had reportedly said that his government was committed to holding the LB election if the MQM evolved a consensus among main political parties on the issue.
“The idea behind this was to postpone general election for one year, so that the president could get himself re-elected for other term from the incumbent parliament,” sources said adding that soon after the London meeting the MQM started consulting different political parties in order to convene a roundtable meeting.
This effort was meant to take all parties into confidence over a delay in general elections, but most parties refused to buy the idea.
On the other hand, a delegation of the Awami National Party (ANP) expressed its reservations over the SLGO 2001 during a meeting with President Zardari. “We are in favour of the local government system of 1979,” ANP Senator Shahi Syed said, adding that since the coalition partners had failed to evolve a consensus on the issue for nearly five years, it was not possible to hold LB elections before parliamentary polls. “Let the MQM and PPP decide, we will give our reaction after that,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 4th, 2012.
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