The difficult task of apologising to the people of Sindh on behalf of the government fell squarely on the information minister. He said sorry on its behalf for issuing two ordinances to revive the local government system of 2001 in Karachi and Hyderabad and rolling back the commissionerate system - all in barely a month.
At a press conference at the Sindh Secretariat on Tuesday, Information Minister Sharjeel Inam Memon said that it was a “technical mistake” due to which the local government system was revived only in two districts rather than the entire province. “We realised our mistake and restored the local government system within 24 hours across Sindh,” he said.
Nonetheless, the government still stands by its version that the commissionerate system was an “excellent system”, which can tackle all the problems people in the province face.
In a euphemism-laden announcement, Memon said that there had been a coalition government and some of their “friends”, who he did not choose to name, had concerns over the commissionerate and local government system of 1979. Therefore the provincial government rolled back both systems in order to avert further bloodshed in the city. “We have revived the local government system to maintain law and order in Karachi,” he said, adding, “We don’t want to see more bodies on the roads.” When asked who was involved in the massacre in the city, the minister parried the question, only saying that some elements wanted to create a rift among political parties which is why a law and order situation was being created.
The minister referred to the Sindhi nationalists, who had protested against the LG system. He scoffed that they had not even been able to win a union council seat but had started a campaign against the government and had spread propaganda that Pakistan Peoples Party ministers and other leaders had gone underground when they started to protest against the “division” of Sindh. “We cannot run from our land and no one would dare to divide Sindh,” Memon said. “We are ready to sacrifice our lives but will not let anyone divide Sindh.” The PPP had not compromised on Sindh’s issues whether it was Kalabagh Dam, the Thal Canal or National Finance Commission award.
He questioned why the leaders of nationalist parties had not initiated a campaign against General Pervez Musharraf who had promulgated the LG ordinance and repealed the commissioneate system in the first place.
There would be no disparity among the people of Sindh and the government will discourage any kind of system that creates confusion. “The people of Sindh have a right to protest against the government’s decision, but we want to communicate to them that we have overcome our technical mistake,” he said, adding that the PPP has never ever worked against the wishes of people. “We know what they did when the deputy speaker of their party was elected to the Sindh Assembly,” he remarked.
And then, on a more philosophic note, Memon said that in politics nothing was final - and the system changed with each passing day. When asked whether the commissionerate system would be revived, he did not respond. “We will make amendments to the system, given the people’s wishes.”
To a question, Memon said that they would start a dialogue with all coalition partners, including the Awami National Party (ANP), Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), Pakistan Muslim League-F and -Q in order to make amendments to SLGO 2001 before tabling it in the house of representatives.
“We even can change the name of this system by bringing such amendments which would be applicable to all political forces in the coalition government,” he said.
Regarding the MQM’s decision to rejoin the government, he said that the, “PPP still believes in the reconciliation policy.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 10th, 2011.
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