KARACHI: President Asif Ali Zardari has reassured Altaf Hussain, the chief of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), that the local government system will be restored soon.
Hussain spoke to the President on Thursday evening and discussed the challenges being faced by Pakistan, the state of law and order in Karachi and the local government system.
According to a statement issued by the MQM, Hussain discussed the increase in crime in Karachi with the President. He also stressed that the local government system must be finalised soon, because people are facing a considerable number of problems in getting their issues resolved. The local government system has been a bone of contention with the MQM for several years, and the party has been stressing the reinstatement of the system in recent meetings with the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leadership.
According to MQM Deputy Convener Dr Farooq Sattar, the MQM and the PPP have covered a considerable deal of the new law that is being developed for the new system of governing the province. “We have a number of reservations on principle issues, but the leadership will sit down and decide on these. We need at least four or five sittings to discuss the functioning of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation etc. We are going through the schedules clause by clause. One issue that came up was of the functions that were devolved by former president Pervaiz Musharraf, but the PPP said that all of these have gone back to the province according to the 1979-era system that was restored,” he told The Express Tribune. Sattar said the two parties will then move on to policy meetings and hope that the law can be introduced in the Sindh Assembly after Eid.
However, it is unclear as yet whether local government elections will be held before the general elections. “This is long overdue,” Sattar said. “If the general elections are held according to the federal law, then the local government elections need to be held according to the [relevant] law.” He added that if general elections are held on time then the local government elections should be held now. “But if the president and the coalition partners decide to call elections earlier, then the local government elections can happen afterwards.”
The president also assured the MQM chief that the government has taken notice of the extortion mafia and criminal activities in Pakistan, particularly Karachi, and will take action against them. He also said that a high-level meeting will be called in connection with the issue.
MQM’s Sattar also said that the party has not decided as yet whether it will be holding a roundtable conference after party chief Hussain brought up the idea in a speech outlining threats to Pakistan’s national security. “We are building an opinion for a broad based consultation through a roundtable. If the political parties will accept the idea, then we can go for it. Otherwise we have suggested this to the president, who can ask the prime minister to consult with the parties and invite them for a roundtable conference,” Sattar said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2012.