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November 9, 2008

The acting governor and the


November 9, 2008


One can only wonder what her thoughts were when Shehla Raza marked the third death anniversary of her two children on the day that she took oath as acting provincial governor. Three years back, Shehla Raza’s daughter and son died after their taxi fell into an open drain in Gulshan-e-Iqbal. Shehla Raza and her husband were in the taxi at the time. It was tragic incident and at the time she was a member of the provincial assembly.

There are more coincidences. The oath taking was held on same day that a former Sindh governor, Mahmoud Haroon, passed away. Haroon served as governor twice from 1990 to 1993 and again from 1994 to 1996. His role as Interior Minister in General Ziaul Haq’s government was very controversial and PPP leaders blamed him as being responsible for the hanging of late ZA Bhutto.

Later, former president Ghulam Ishaq Khan appointed him as Sindh governor in 1990 after the dismissal of the first Benazir Bhutto government. The PPP leadership also blamed him for creating a crisis for their government and misunderstanding between the PPP and MQM. They said that his appointment as Sindh governor was the gift for his role.

Later Haroon managed to shrug this baggage and even aligned himself with Ms Bhutto’s government as he is understood to have brought the late PPP leader close to Ghulam Ishaq Khan. This resulted in the dismissal of the Nawaz Sharif government. The PPP appointed him as Sindh governor in 1994 to acknowledge his services for the party as he helped bring the PPP back in power.

The Haroons are still close with PPP and now the party appointed his nephew Hussain A Haroon as Pakistan Ambassador to the UN. Mehmoud Haroon for his part served almost five years as Sindh Governor. But Dr Ishratul Ebad has now broken this record. Dr Ebad is in London these days and Shehla Raza has taken oath as acting governor in his absence. Dr Ebad’s London visit is understood to convey the message of the Prime

Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani to MQM chief, Altaf Hussain to invite the party to join the federal cabinet.

MQM claims that the party was not consulted till last week when 40 more federal ministers and advisers were appointed. MQM and JUI expected that the PPP would consult them before expansion in the cabinet. Later both the parties conveyed their reservations to the PPP leadership on this.

MQM has more then 25 MNAs and six senators and the party wants at least three federal ministries with the portfolios that the MQM was holding in previous governments. The PPP leadership has now conveyed to the MQM through Dr Ishratul Ebad that the government wants to induct their nominees. As a result, Governor Ebad and some other party leaders including City Nazim Mustafa Kamal have left for London to meet party chief Altaf Hussain. The PPP also sent Dr Zulfiqar Mirza and Pir Mazharul Haq to London to talk to Altaf Hussain directly.

MQM circles claim that the party wants some more assurances particularly on the future set up of the local government system. The PPP wants to revive the old Commissioner system in Sindh while the MQM wants that the existing local bodies system to continue. The MQM won the battle with local bodies minister Agha Siraj who earlier took over control of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) from the City Nazim but handed it back after the intervention of President Asif Zardari. Governor Ebad played an important role to remove misunderstanding between the Nazim and Agha Siraj. However, the issue of the existing local bodies system is still a major matter among the two coalition partners.

Next year will be the year of election for local bodies in Sindh and MQM wishes to sweep this election in the urban areas. But the PPP wants to revive the old local bodies system with the office of Mayor and the old administrative commissioner and deputy commissioner system. In the old administrative system, the Mayor was under the Commissioner while in the present system the DCO is under the Nazim, who has all financial and administrative powers. The Nazim system is suitable for MQM who have control of two major cities Karachi and Hyderabad. MQM also wants same adjustments made with the previous Q League. But the PPP leaders do not agree to this and the city PPP leadership has conveyed this to their party chief.

The city PPP leadership is very much hopeful that the party will capture the local bodies in the next election and that a PPP leader will be the next Nazim of Karachi. The political system of the province could be affected if the PPP and MQM do not show political maturity and their differences, particularly on the local bodies issue, are not resolved.

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