The Pakistan People’s Party and Muttahida Qaumi Movement are working hard to resolve differences over the shape and form of the local government system in Sindh.
At a meeting held here Saturday morning, the provincial leadership of the PPP assured the representatives of its coalition partner – the MQM – that they would find an amicable solution of the problem to thesatisfaction of all stakeholders.
The meeting was attended by PPP minsters Pir Mazharul Haq and Agha Siraj Durrani while Raza Haroon and Dr Sagheer Ahmed represented the MQM. None of them agreed to answer media questions.
However, sources privy to the development said a session of the Sindh Assembly may be convened before Eid to place the local government ordinance before the house.
The existing system which owes its life to an ordinance of August 8, will cease to exist on November 7 and according to legal experts there is no way out to extend it except by putting it before the assembly.
“Once the August 8 ordinance is introduced in the house, it can be considered the property of the Sindh Assembly till consensus is developed for legislation,” Law Secretary Ghulam Nabi Shah said. But if it is not presented in the house before November 7, the local government system of 1979 will automatically stand revived along with the commissionerate system.
“The intention is that we join hands with the PPP and come to a solution. This has to be presented in the Sindh Assembly now, there isn’t any other way out,” said MQM leader Sardar Ahmed, who is part of the MQM’s internal committee that is working on the local government ordinance.
Ahmed, who also met Haq and Durrani on Saturday, said that there was a need to compromise and come up with a law that would be a “permanent institutional arrangement”, not something that could be changed again. However, Ahmed said no major suggestions had come from the PPP yet. Ahmed said that the two political parties would continue to meet over the weekend to come up with a workable solution.
According to Raza Haroon, the draft law that the party prepared in the past “takes the 2001 system and 2005 amendments and incorporates more changes. For example, we have proposed that power be devolved at the union council level as well and councillors should be empowered.”
But the government, mindful of the resentment among PPP MPAs and the conflicting stand taken by the coalition partners, is avoiding the session of the Sindh Assembly.
“There is stiff resistance within the PPP and if the ordinance is placed before the house, a majority of its MPAs will reject it,” a PPP leader who holds an important ministry in the Sindh cabinet told The Express Tribune, requesting anonymity. He even questioned the legal status of the August 8 ordinance and said, “it is not legal, because it was moved without the law minister’s signature on it.”
The assembly had already passed a law to revive the commissionerate system and SLGO1979, which according to him would automatically stand restored on November 8. “The legislation of the Sindh Assembly is an act, which cannot be replaced with an ordinance issued by the governor,” he said. The dissenting PPP MPAs who, under the leadership of former home minister Dr Zulfiqar Mirza have been opposing SLGO 2001, have said that they would vote against any bill against the wishes of the people of Sindh. “We will oppose it if the ordinance is laid down before the Sindh Assembly,” said PPP MPA Imdad Pifati.
He said that a majority of the PPP MPAs will vote against the 2001 system if the government tries to introduce it. “We communicated this position to our leadership and have advised them to let the commissionerate system be revived and after that we should negotiate with the MQM on legislation relating to local government,” he said.
Not only the dissenting MPAs of PPP, but PML-F, ANP and National People Party (NPP) have decided to vote against the system. “We cannot compromise on this issue and will vote against it,” said PML-F leader Jam Madad Ali who has recently been appointed minister for science and technology.
The members of MQM and PML-Q (likeminded group) led by Arbab Ghulam Rahim support SLGO 2001. “This system was introduced during our tenure. We will again support it if ordinance comes up in the assembly for legislation,” said PML-Q MP Chetan Lal Arwani whose party has four seats.
He said that earlier when the PPP had passed a bill to revive the commissionerate system and restored the 1979 local government system they had boycotted the session along with the MQM. “We believe that the system introduced by Pervez Mushrraf is a solution to all the problems faced by the people of Sindh,” he said.
However, the PML-Q which has four MPAs is on the fence. “We will discuss it with our leadership before voting on the bill,” said PML-Q’s Haleem Adil Shaikh.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 30th, 2011.