PPP, MQM meet again on local govt with little to report

Negotiations have continued since the system expired in 2009.

Our Correspondent August 23, 2012


A core committee meeting of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) was held on Thursday with key representatives of both parties.

The meeting was part of a series on a local government system for Sindh, which has been under discussion since 2009.

Earlier this month, President Asif Ali Zardari had reassured MQM chief Altaf Hussain that the local government system would be reinstated soon. At the time, the party’s deputy convener Dr Farooq Sattar had told The Express Tribune that the MQM had a number of reservations. One of the issues being discussed was the functioning of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation.

“The legislation was discussed point by point as well as on devolution and the functions of different departments,” according to MQM’s Wasay Jalil.  “There is an agreement on some points and differences remain on the same. We will be discussing this at a meeting tomorrow (Friday) as well.”

Once the negotiations are complete, the major principles will be discussed by the party’s senior leadership and the legislation will be presented in the Sindh Assembly. The negotiations are also factoring in the impact of the 18th amendment to the constitution, which devolved key areas to the provinces from the centre.

The MQM and the PPP have gone head-to-head on this issue in the past, resulting in the MQM breaking away from the coalition government last summer. It rejoined the government on the federal and provincial levels in October 2011. The PPP’s stance is that it wants to continue with the 1979-era system of local governance; however the MQM has expressed a degree of willingness to incorporate some of its elements into a new draft but wants to stick with the Local Government Ordinance of 2001 as a foundation.

However, it remains unclear as to what the timeline of these meetings are and when one can expect a solid outcome. There is also no schedule for when the government plans to hold local government elections, since it approached the Supreme Court on August 6 in connection with a Sindh High Court order on the subject.

Article 140-A of the Constitution of Pakistan states that, “Each province shall, by law, establish a local government system and devolve political, administrative and financial responsibility and authority to the elected representatives of the local government” and that “Elections to the local government shall be held by the Election Commission of Pakistan.”

In its short order on a petition filed by a former nazim, the Sindh High Court gave the Sindh government 90 days to hold local elections. However, the government has approached the Supreme Court since it says that it has not received a detailed judgment on the subject.

Among those who attended the meeting on Thursday were Sindh Senior Education and Literacy Minister Pir Mazharul Haq, Sindh Finance Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and Sindh Local Government Minister Agha Siraj Durrani from the PPP and MQM’s Dr Sattar, Sindh Senior Minister Syed Sardar Ahmed, Kanwar Naveed Jamil and Wasay Jalil.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 24th, 2012.


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