The Supreme Court admitted a petition on Friday challenging Sindh’s new local government law, which had, after its passage, sparked a political firestorm in the province only a few weeks back.
The petition seeks a ruling against the Sindh People’s Local Government Act 2012 and a declaration that it is unconstitutional. Setting November 8 as the first date of hearing, the court issued notices to Attorney General Irfan Qadir and Advocate General Sindh Abdul Fatah Malik. The petition has been filed by Barrister Zameer Ghumro, leader of the Sindh Dost Rabita Council (SDRC), under Article 183 (4) of the Constitution, which allows the apex court to take suo motu action.
In the petition, Ghumro stated that the Sindh Assembly had violated the Constitution by passing the local government bill, adding that the Sindh government had transferred executive powers to metropolitan corporations without having the power to do so.
The bill is seen as a product of negotiations between coalition partners Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ebad promulgated the ordinance on September 7, ending months of deadlock between the two parties.
The ordinance was then passed by the Sindh Assembly.
The move, however, triggered widespread protests in Sindh with nationalist, religious and political parties, including the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and government allies such as the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) and Awami National Party (ANP) collectively rebuffing the new local government bill.
Opponents of the newly enacted bill claim the law is a conspiracy to divide Sindh (given its separate treatment of urban centres). Karachi, Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas, Larkana and Sukkur are given status of divisions in the new governing system with mayors heading the metropolitan corporations of all five divisions.
The polarisation caused by the act, which was passed in the Sindh Assembly despite strong opposition from the law’s critics, led to ANP and PML-F parting ways with the PPP-led ruling coalition in Sindh. Nationalist parties have also held a number of strikes against the new law, leading to sporadic violence in the rural areas of the province.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 3rd, 2012.