KARACHI: The Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQMP) on Tuesday organized a conference titled “Independent Districts: Strong Pakistan” at a local hotel here to pave the way for ‘comprehensive’ constitutional amendments for decentralization of power.
The event was attended by politicians, social workers, journalists, lawyers and businesses.
Addressing the participants, MQMP Convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui said the purpose of organizing this conference was to bring together all political parties to provide assistance to the public in the completion of a prosperous, empowered and strong Pakistan with the cooperation of religious and political parties. He said the current Constitution could protect neither itself nor common citizens. Now there is a need for implementing a constitution that can ensure equal rights of citizens. Just as the powers of prime minister and chief ministers are listed in the Constitution, the powers of local governments should also be highlighted. The real reason behind the crisis in Pakistan is the lack of honest intention which is more problematic than the unfair distribution of resources. Pakistan needs a constitution in which workers are represented by workers and not landlords or Vaderas.
MQMP Senior Deputy Convener Mustafa Kamal said the bad days of the people of Pakistan were about to pass and the good time was near. The presence of all parties in this conference is welcoming. Five people are in control of the resources and authority of this country while there is no procedure defined in the Constitution to bring the resources and power to the lower level. He said that MQMP was presenting three proposals for amendments to the Constitution. Just as the powers of chief ministers and prime minister are written in the Constitution, the powers of local government representatives should also be written. The Provincial Finance Commissions should work like the National Finance Commission. Holding of general elections must be subjected to the presence of local governments. He suggested that parties opposing new provinces in the country should support these amendments. Pakistan has not benefited significantly from provincial autonomy, but all resources have been limited to chief ministers.
MQMP Senior Deputy Convener Dr Farooq Sattar said today was the day to take the first step towards real change. After the establishment of Pakistan, the slogan of a strong centre and a strong Pakistan came into existence. For the last 15 years, people were deceived in the name of 18th Amendments and provincial autonomy. Unless the powers and resources are transferred to the lower level, the dream of a strong Pakistan will not be fulfilled. Empowered and stable local governments are the guarantors of a strong Pakistan. The inclusion of clauses warranting decentralization of power and resources to the district level is inevitable in the Constitution. The institutions for purely civic needs should be subordinated to local governments.
Former federal Law minister and Senator Farogh Naseem said the issue of constitutional amendments raised by the MQMP was challenged in the Supreme Court of Pakistan to bring powers to the lower level through Article 140/A, but unfortunately, no substantial results were obtained. Pakistan needs new constitutional amendments and legislation so that it can walk side by side with the world. The MQMP’s thought of development is not only limited to Karachi but the whole of Pakistan. Now it is the perfect time to forget all differences of the past and move towards a new and better Pakistan.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PMLN) leader Ahmad Iqbal while commenting on MQMP suggestions said today would be an important milestone in the efforts made regarding the powers of local governments. Unfortunately, ANP Sindh President Shahi Syed said prosperous people were the guarantee of a prosperous Pakistan. The 18th Amendment has not been implemented in its true sense to date. If the resources are not brought to doorsteps of people, the dream of a better Pakistan will never be fulfilled.
Istehkam-e-Pakistan Party (IPP) leader Imran Ismail said Karachi had always been considered a milking cow but the fodder for this cow was not according to its needs. This MQMP effort to empower local governments across the country is commendable. He mentioned that an example of double standards in this city was that the Nasla Tower was demolished but its builders were not brought to justice. Miftah Ismail said if reforms regarding local governments were not made, Pakistan would lag behind the world.
Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) General Secretary Safdar Abbasi said in different periods, local government powers laws were made but these laws were never implemented. Journalist Mazhar Abbas said the MQM was the only party which had flourished in the nursery of student politics and local governments and the draft presented by it would remain a turning point in the political history of the country. Until local governments are empowered, the politics of the country will remain in a state of chaos. Karachi is the economic and social hub of Pakistan. Instead of making this country a welfare state, it has been turned into real estate. Writer Khawar Mehdi said democracy remained incomplete without empowering local governments in civilized societies. Former Sindh governor Moinuddin Haider said local governments were the foundation of democracy, only through them, a strong Pakistan could be formed. The irony is that local governments have always been empowered under dictatorial regimes and their powers were taken away during political periods.
PILDAT Director Ahmad Mehboob, in his message, said the elections and powers of local governments should not only be listed in the Constitution, but legal protection should also be provided. Sindh Bar Association President Rehan Malik said: “We will not be able to put the country on the path of development in the true sense until we empower local representatives.”