After facing a backlash at the proposal to have two different local government systems within the province, the Sindh government, in consultation with President Asif Ali Zardari has decided to reintroduce the elected local government system throughout the province instead of just in Karachi and Hyderabad.
Sindh Governor Ishratul Ebad Khan met with Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and the provincial law secretary late on Sunday night to finalise the legalities and sign the law that would revive the Sindh Local Government Ordinance 2001.
According to sources familiar with the situation, President Asif Ali Zardari had directed the Sindh government to reintroduce the elected local government system – and do away with the bureaucrat-led commissionerate system – throughout the province of Sindh after realising that two different local government systems would be deeply unpopular with ethnic Sindhi voters who would view such a move as the beginnings of a division of Sindh.
On Sunday, nationalist parties in Sindh have announced that they will launch a two-week protest against the deal between the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement that had sought the revival of the elected local government system in the two districts dominated by the MQM – Karachi and Hyderabad.
“Zardari, by treading the path of… Ziaul Haq and Pervez Musharraf, has handed over Karachi and Hyderabad to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement,” said Awami Tehreek president Ayaz Latif Palijo
The nationalist parties were perturbed by the fact that two districts dominated by the MQM would be governed under a different system than the rest of the province, an unnerving prospect for them at a time when one of the dominant themes on the national political scene is the creation of new provinces in the country.
Yet the nationalists are not the only ones to be opposed to the reintroduction of the elected local government system.
“Restoring the Sindh Local Government Ordinance, whether in two districts or in the whole province, is a clear violation of the constitution,” Senator Taj Haider of the PPP told The Express Tribune. “Whoever is doing this is violating the constitution.”
Sindh Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon, however, rejected Senator Haider’s remarks and said that a uniform system was needed throughout the province and the commissionerate system would be rolled back not just in Karachi and Hyderabad but also the rest of Sindh’s 21 districts.
In order to discuss the changes in Sindh’s local government system and MQM’s re-entry into the ruling coalition, President Zardari has called a meeting in Islamabad on Monday (today). The meeting will be attended by senior PPP leaders, including Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah and members of his provincial cabinet.
Sources told the Daily Express that the president is expected to give his formal approval of the accord reached with the MQM on Saturday, a negotiation that was led by Babar Awan of the PPP and Sindh Governor Ishratul Ebad of the MQM. Among the Sindh cabinet members expected to attend the meeting are Pir Mazharul Haq, Zulfiqar Mirza, Agha Siraj Durrani, and Ayaz Soomro. (With additional reporting by Aijaz Shaikh)
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2011.