Sindh after the SPLGA

Published: March 13, 2013
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The writer is Chief Executive of the Strengthening Participatory Organisation

The writer is Chief Executive of the Strengthening Participatory Organisation

Impregnated with ethnic strife, the Sindh Peoples Local Government Act (SPLGA) created an unprecedented anti-PPP sentiment in its stronghold, Sindh. Proceedings of the Supreme Court, hearing a petition seeking annulment of the law, were indicative of an inclement outcome for the government. The recent experience of by-elections also sent waves of consternation in the ruling camp as its candidates faced pillories from opponents and disgruntled masses on the same law. All these factors constrained the PPP to cajole its ally to rescind the politically incendiary law. The belated adieu by the MQM to the government is viewed as an overtly cosmetic move under a premeditated script. On the day that acting governor of Sindh, Nisar Ahmed Khuhro, signed to repeal the SPLGA, the Karachi Stock Exchange recorded bonanza business — unimaginable if it was not a mock war between the two parties. Nevertheless, the interment of a divisive law averted a lurking ethnic frenzy in the province, already mired with unremitting violence, especially in Karachi.

In the presence of this law, the next general elections could have been a nightmare for the PPP in Sindh. Although the opposition has been disarmed of its would-be most popular slogan of divisive law, the lacklustre performance of the PPP during the past five years has sufficiently exasperated its voters. Rampant corruption, brazen violation of merit in postings and transfers, displacement of several million flood affectees, substandard quality of social sector services, ubiquitous lawlessness, shabby infrastructure and scruffy towns can provide ample ammunition for the election campaign of opposition parties. For the PPP, the past platitude of victimisation and martyrdom of the Bhuttos has lost its lustre to fascinate the masses this time. Portending this ominous fact, the party has embarked upon a medley of actions, including cajoling feudal lords in Sindh.

This cacophony of political manoeuvring, however, does not obviate the need for a viable local bodies system in Sindh. Both parties cannot be absolved for their failure in providing an amicable solution to this conundrum during their five-year rule. An ethnically polarised province needs a local bodies system that can bridge ethnic divide in the province and guarantee quality service delivery to all residents. While the SPLGA was a flawed arrangement, the 1979 Sindh Local Bodies Ordinance is not an ideal choice, either, and needs to be supplanted by a more amicable and workable system of service delivery. Any party that takes reins of the province after the next elections should initiate a dialogue among the people of Sindh to develop consensus on a local bodies system that can devolve powers and resources without clenching them in the fist of any single entity. Creating islands of prosperity in the ocean of impoverishment would culminate in an endless turmoil.

The Eighteenth Amendment promised more resources and powers for provinces. Sindh should also have reaped some benefits but the truncated execution of the amendment and machinations of bureaucracy have forestalled the same. A credible local bodies system that guarantees prudent management of resources and a fair exercise of authority can tap the unharnessed potential of the province to create development opportunities for all residents without watering ethnic acrimonies in the province.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 14th, 2013.

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Reader Comments (4)

  • Omer
    Mar 14, 2013 - 2:55PM

    Okay that is what we call a balance approach. Excellent article.

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  • mystreeman
    Mar 14, 2013 - 6:41PM

    Without giving the power to the city dwellers to run the affairs of their cities Sindh unity cannot be guaranteed for long term.

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  • MK
    Mar 21, 2013 - 5:06AM

    @mystreeman:

    Power should always be delegated to elected city governments regardless of the size. This demand of central administration via un elected officials from interior Sindh is not from the people but from the lords ruling them. I am all for more provinces on Divisional lines, and within them strong city governments. Karachi is so big it should be a province in its own, further sub divided into municipal/city governments with several elected Nazims/Mayors.

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  • Sajida
    Mar 21, 2013 - 10:40AM

    By repealing SPLGA PPP went for short term gain long term pain. Even Ghana has what apparently Sindh cannot have. Its leaders know understand the importance of metropolitan municipalities (essential for growing cities) and they only have a population of less than 25 million-just a little more than Karachi’s today. Losing the SLGC means no chance to build foundation for a municipal bond market to develop infrastructure across the province. Good going PPP, you showed no leadership-just political expediency. Apparently you don’t care less for Sindh;only for PPP!

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