KARACHI: The Pakistan Peoples Party decided on Sunday to remove the octogenarian chief minister of Sindh, Qaim Ali Shah, and reshuffle the provincial cabinet, in a move that didn’t come as a surprise given a guessing game in the media about a possible change in the provincial administration.
The decision was taken at a meeting co-chaired by PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari in Dubai. Attendees included Chief Minister Shah, Senior Minister Murad Ali Shah, Home Minister Sohail Anwar Siyal, Law Adviser Murtaza Wahab former federal interior minister Rehman Malik, MNA Faryal Talpur and ex-secretary general of the party Latif Khosa.
“Today, the PPP decided to make changes in the Sindh cabinet, including bringing in a new chief minister,” PPP Senator Farhatullah Babar said in a statement issued after the Dubai meeting.
“The decision to change the chief minister was made by Bilawal, not Zardari,” former PPP secretary general Latif Khosa added. “The PPP chairman took the decision after reviewing the overall situation in the province and discussing the matter with all party leaders.”
Khosa said the provincial cabinet would be reshuffled after intra-party consultations. Babar added that Bilawal was expected to return to Karachi this week to meet party leaders and legislators before finalising changes in the cabinet.
While the party did not cite any reasons for the removal of the chief minister, sources say Qaim had a soft corner for the Rangers and was in favour of extending policing powers of the paramilitary force in the province.
Recently, when the policing powers for Rangers expired, Qaim had attempted to convince the party’s leadership (Zardari) to grant an extension in the powers for the sake of peace in Karachi; however, it seemed to have not gone down well.
“Four days ago, Zardari telephoned him [Qaim], and the chief minister looked perturbed since then,” sources in the Chief Minister House said, adding that after the call, Qaim told his personal staff that his days in the Chief Minister House were numbered.
This was Qaim’s third tenure as chief minister. He spent nearly 10 years in the office, the longest period among his peers. He, however, faced scathing criticism during his past two tenures with allegations ranging from bad governance to incompetence in handling various governmental issues.
Since the party has a simple majority in the Sindh Assembly, it can easily elect a new leader of the house. It has 92 legislators, followed by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement with 51 MPAs, PML-Functional 11, PML-N 10 and PTI has three members.
“The PPP does not need any party’s support since it has the majority to elect a new leader of the house who will become the chief minister,” Secretery Sindh Assembly GM Umar Farooq told The Express Tribune.
Sources say the party is expected to convene a meeting on Tuesday in Karachi where Qaim will formally tender his resignation, and the party will announce his replacement.
A few names are already making rounds in the political circles for the coveted post. Murad Ali Shah, a senior minister for finance, energy, planning and development, is said to be a strong candidate for the slot. Other contenders include senior minister for education and literacy, and parliamentary affairs Nisar Khuhro, minister for mines and mineral development Manzoor Wasan, home minister Sohail Anwar Siyal and Sindh Assembly Speaker Agha Siraj Durrani.
However, party sources have dismissed these names as speculation.
Rangers policing powers
The Dubai meeting also discussed matters pertaining to governance and law and order in the province, especially the burning issue of extending the policing powers of the Rangers.
The party decided in principle to extend the policing powers of Rangers but only in Karachi. Further deliberations on the length of the tenure for the powers and other associated conditions for them are still continuing.
“Once again, the PPP wants to frame some conditions barring the forces from taking actions in some places,” said a PPP leader who was familiar with proceedings of the Dubai meeting.
“The Rangers will be given full powers, as they have been enjoying since 2013. But after recent developments, it has not yet confirmed whether they will be given through a notification or a resolution of the Sindh Assembly,” a PPP source said.
Earlier, Khosa told a press conference that the issue of Rangers’ policing powers will be resolved for the sake of law and order in Karachi.
“It is the chief minister’s powers to call Rangers in the province and give them special powers,” he said explaining that the paramilitary force was called in under Article 147 to assist the police.
He added that special policing powers were granted to the Rangers under the Anti-Terrorism Act, which has now expired.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 25th, 2016.