The ruling party may be making plans for a massive rally in support of its new local government law on Monday but the opposition is working hard to try and dent support.
Ton Sindh khappai, Zardari, was the text message circulating on Friday. You, President Zardari, have sold Sindh. This is a direct play on the president’s famous phase, ‘Pakistan khappay’ (We choose Pakistan).
In the face of opposition to the new Sindh Peoples Local Government Ordinance, 2012, the Pakistan Peoples Party has planned a public gathering in Hyderabad on October 15. Ahead of this, on Friday, the Sindh Bachayo Committee held a rally in Badin to persuade people not to go. It fears that the PPP wants to use its public meeting to try and give the impression that the public supports the new law.
The opposition and nationalist leaders went heavy on the emotion at the rally. “Today we have shaken the earth of Badin to stop the PPP from wishful thinking that Sindhis are fools and illiterate to be cheated so easily,” declared MPA Nusrat Sehar Abbasi of the Pakistan Muslim League-F to the crowd. “We should all wear black armbands and black clothes when the PPP holds this public meeting.”
She was one of the MPAs who led protests in the Sindh Assembly when it voted on SPLGO.
A disdainful Sindh Taraqi Pasand’s Dr Qadir Magsi said people would block all the important highways which pass through Badin, Tando Muhammad Khan, Tandojam on Monday. “Let the sanitary workers, government servants and a handful of traitors attend it,” he said, referring to the practice of protestors-for-hire.
Jalal Mehmood Shah of the Sindh United Party used the word “motherland” and the PML-N’s Ismail Rahu, who is the son of Fazil Rahu who was killed during the Movement for the Restoration of Democracy in 1987, criticised the PPP for what he said was coming to power through the Sindhi vote but now preparing to divide the province just to prolong its rule. “They are giving Sindh’s big cities to them,” he said referring to the Muttahida Qaumi Movement. But it was not clear what he meant by this.
Indeed, the PPP has repeatedly said that the opposition has not properly understood the legislation. The law, which took four years of wrangling to devise, is a 293-page long document and lays out a complex system of metropolitan centres. Informed discussion and analysis has been scant and nationalist rhetoric has mostly played to the gallery. The legislation is beyond the understanding of the average citizen or resident of Sindh’s cities and towns. For whatever it is worth, the nationalists and their supporters set up reception camps on Thursday to try and explain the new law to people.
Peasant leader Azhar Jatoi said farmers did not vote for the PPP so that it can sell the “motherland”. “The hands which cultivate crops to feed humans can also squeeze the necks of their motherland’s enemies,” he warned. The PML-F’s Marvi Rashdi fell back on the use of the word “conspiracy”.
The rally was organized between the residence of PPP MPA Dr Sikandar Mandhro and the main office of former Sindh home minister, Dr Zulfiqar Mirza, and the National Assembly’s Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza. Police were deployed at both the ends.
Badin was decorated with party flags and opposition workers danced to folk songs at the rally. A majority of participants came from remote parts of the district which did not vote for any political or religious party in the elections. It was thought that no one would have the courage to organise an anti-PPP rally in Badin out of fear for the Mirzas but people openly shouted “Where is the lion of Sindh hiding?” to refer to him. Mirza became popular for his criticism of the MQM last year.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 13th, 2012.