There and back again

Hafeez Tunio May 09, 2010

HYDERABAD: Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani said on Saturday that the government will merge Hyderabad, Matiari, Tando Allahyar and Tando Muhammad Khan districts into one district called Hyderabad, which was the status of the area before 2005.

The restoration of administrative units to the pre- 2005 position was one of the promises made by the current government. Many feel that the General (retired) Pervez Musharraf-led government had changed the districts for political gains. Many therefore, including nationalist parties and civil society organisations, welcomed the announcement made at the Pakistan Peoples Party Hyderabad Workers Convention, while at the same time they expressed scepticism about its implementation.

However, not everyone was happy to hear the prime minister’s statement. The PPP’s coalition partner in Sindh, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which was also part of the government which had bifurcated the Hyderabad district, opposed the announcement, saying that they would not let the decision be implemented.

Talking to The Express Tribune, Makhdoom Jameel-e-Zaman, Sindh Minister for Inter- Provincial Coordination and president of the PPP’s Hyderabad division, said that it was Benazir Bhutto’s dream to restore the districts to their old positions. Referring to Gilani’s speech, Zaman said that the prime minister announced that “before implementing the decision, MQM would be taken into confidence”.

Zaman added that he does not understand why the MQM is opposing the conversion of four districts into one given that it was in their previous tenure that Karachi was converted into one district from five. “During Musharraf’s tenure, different districts were given to various political parties as gifts without the consent of people.

We just want to restore them,” he said. Faisal Sabzwari, an MQM MPA, said that the party would comment on the announcement following the decision of the Rabitta Committee. Nevertheless, he added that the MQM would oppose it. Meanwhile, a deputy spokesman of the MQM told The Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity that Gilani’s announcement was a “political statement” to appease the people of Hyderabad.

“The PPP has been treating us like opponents not coalition partners and we will oppose the restoration of [the old] Hyderabad district at any cost,” he said. Justifying the bifurcation of Hyderabad, he said that it was done to provide facilities to people, claiming that PPP’s nazim failed to serve the people while the MQM “made Hyderabad a different city by initiating projects”.

Ali Hassan Chandio, Vice- President of the Sindh Tarraqi Passand Party, said that the announcement is good if implemented. At the same time, he felt that the announcement was made to strengthen the PPP’s bargaining position vis-a-vis the MQM with regards to the local government standoff. Zufliqar Shah, a development expert and a civil society leader, said that since merging the four districts into one was one of the elections promises, it was good to hear that it would be done soon.

Meanwhile, Bashir Qureshi, Chairman Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz, said that they had always opposed the bifurcation of districts. Yet he doesn’t seem hopeful that the present government would be able to undo what the previous one did. “It does not seem to me that the PPP would want to clash with its coalition partner who is not willing to restore Hyderabad to its old position because big money is involved,” he said. “They earn a lot of money in the name of development projects.”


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