Amidst a great deal of angry debate and occasional scenes of violent protests, the Sindh Assembly has finally passed the Sindh Local Government Ordinance, which has been a subject of controversy for months. Under the law, mayors will control city governments as they did under the local government law passed by the Musharraf govenrment. All other provinces have abandoned this system, reverting to control by bureaucrats.
This has been an issue, which almost tore the PPP and the MQM apart. The MQM strongly favours the system in place now, since it allows it a hold over urban centres of the province. The PPP had eventually relented to the MQM’s demands on this matter causing something of a surprise among most other parties in Sindh and also a number of PPP members themselves. These same members joined in the protest staged in the Sindh Assembly by various parties, which included the PML-F, the PML-Q and the ANP. The degree of turmoil caused by the passage of the ordinance is not a good sign. Already the nationalist parties in Sindh have staged a strike over the issue. The Local Government Ordinance can succeed only in an environment of harmony and cooperation between all political forces. The system put in place in Sindh does act, in some ways at least, to empower people and grant them a say in their own affairs. To a great extent, this power is far more than was ever available to them under the colonial district commissioner system. However, bulldozing key legislation through the assembly is never a good idea. Building up consensus always makes better sense and works in favour of the people.
This controversy could hurt the people of Sindh in the longer run. It could also create greater dichotomy at a time when we need parties, particularly in the strife-hit city of Karachi, to cooperate with one another. The disagreement bordering on chaos that we saw in the Sindh Assembly will not help this at all. It is to be seen if the new law will do any good or simply create more conflicts.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 4th, 2012.