KARACHI: To an outsider, Sindh’s coalition partners will appear to be getting along quite well.
Its members who did speak to the media made all the right noises after a meeting with the president who is in Karachi. Two of them, Pir Mazharul Haq of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Farooq Sattar of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) used words such as “allies”, “friends”, “democracy”, “support” and “confidence”. Perhaps an indication of how well the coalition partners are getting along is that a new committee will be formed.
This ‘implementation’ committee will oversee the ‘core’ committee to ensure that its decisions are followed. The implementation committee will also work on encroachment and law and order in Karachi. It will have one or two members from the MQM and PPP and they are contemplating having the chief secretary and two staff officers from Governor House and Chief Minister House. For its part, the core committee will continue to meet to come up with legislation on the local government.
Most of the other men who attended the meetings declined to speak to the media. Others who knew of its goings on said officially and off the record that the division of Hyderabad was not discussed. Others said it was discussed but not in depth. Pir Mazharul Haq told the media that they didn’t hold any “detailed” discussion on the local government system. It was just a “routine” meeting and he said that the PPP’s view on Hyderabad was clear but because of the policy of reconciliation they had backed off.
At the most, they agreed on keeping the city’s present status intact. However, they did not make any decision on restoring its status. If they didn’t discuss these two ‘core’ issues that the ‘core’ committee has not been able to reach consensus on, then what did they talk about? According to reports, they talked about “evolving consensus” on the local government laws before the budget. The president was given an overview of the core committee’s meetings over the last few months. Sources from both parties said that the leaders stuck to their guns - the PPP supported the 1979 system and the MQM the 2001 one.
But the president apparently asked them to agree on a new one that got rid of the flaws from both older systems. Talking to The Express Tribune, the MQM’s Raza Haroon said that they had a valid argument to support the 2001 system. “This system has delivered administratively, politically and financially to people and is one hundred times better than the 1979 system being run by a bureaucracy,” he said. The 2001 system is a purely civilian system run by elected representatives as compared to the 1979 system run by a bureaucracy. “Yesterday we put the same arguments before the president,” he said.
They also mulled over the schedule for the local government elections and seat adjustments for Karachi and Hyderabad. “The schedule would be announced in a day or two and it is possible that the polls will be held in 75 days,” said one insider on the condition of annonymity. This has yet to be officially confirmed.
Support and seats
Sources said they also talked about Rehman Malik’s court verdict for which the president sought the MQM’s support. The Altaf Hussain-led party members assured him that they would do so at all forums. President Zardari also spoke to the MQM to raise support for Abdul Hafeez Sheikh in an upcoming Senate election for a seat recently vacated by Shokat Tarin. The MQM responded positvely. During the meeting law and order situation, unemployment, poverty and loadshedding were discussed.
They decided on speeding up economic activity by completing pending schemes and projects. The MQM delegation led by Dr Farooq Sattar arrived at Bilawal House in a motorcade of green number plated cars at 1:30 pm. The meeting lasted for around an hour and members of both parties seemed relieved when they emerged from Bilawal House. The meeting was attended by the PPP’s Rehman Malik, Qaim Ali Shah, Agha Siraj Durrani, Ayaz Soomro, Rafique Engineer, Najmi Alam, Murad Ali Shah and the MQM’s IshratuI Ebad, Sagheer Ahmed, Wasim Aftab, Babar Ghauri.
Meetings with MPAs
The president also held meetings with MPAs to discuss their progress and problems. Sources said that most of them complained about water shortages. When a few of them raised the Chasma Jehlum link canal, saying that Punjab was taking away their water, the president reportedly asked them to visit the Punjab along with the CM in order to review the situation over there and express their grievances with the Punjab government.
Published in the Express Tribune, May 19th, 2010.