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September 18, 2018

Sindh’s governance woes


September 18, 2018

The media has, by and large, been hostile towards the PPP. It tends to detect more defects in the party’s policies than analyse the good initiatives that it has taken.

For the first time in the country’s history, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto armed the people with the tools of political consciousness. He introduced some of the most progressive legislation to protect the rights of the marginalised sections of society. His tenure produced one of the highest rates of economic growth, created jobs in various sectors of the economy, facilitated manpower export to the Middle East and other regions, and gave an independent direction to Pakistan’s foreign policy. He even consolidated the country’s defence and brought back Pakistani prisoners of war who were languishing in Indian jails.

These merits shouldn’t prompt us to overlook the firebrand speaker’s fascist tendencies, and his feudal mentality and gargantuan appetite for power. His betrayal of Mairaj Mohammad Khan, Mukhtar Rana and many other left-wing leaders isolated him from the working class, forcing him to employ sledgehammer tactics against those whom he claimed to serve.

Some of his retrogressive legislations cost the country a great deal, sowing the seeds of communal hatred and discord that are now threatening the social fabric of the Islamic republic. However, he realised his blunders after being imprisoned, coining the terms ‘coup-gemony’ to explain how imperialist powers orchestrate a coup in collaboration with the generals of the ‘third world’ to plunder the resources of these states. But it was too late for the deposed prime minister, who was waiting to be sent to the gallows.

At first, the PPP fought valiantly, with its workers making tremendous sacrifices for the restoration of democracy. They were flogged publicly, imprisoned and faced the worst form of repression. The people pinned their hopes on the PPP’s democratic government in 1988. But the party had greatly changed by that time and was filled with political opportunists, and had reneged on its promises to work for the downtrodden classes.

Though the party did some good work between 1988 and 2018, its tenures were marred by allegations of rampant corruption. The term ‘Mr Ten Percent’, used for Asif Ali Zardari in the late 1980s, is now being applied by the party’s critics for a number of PPP leaders. Various comrades of the ex-president are facing corruption charges. Instead of rectifying itself, the PPP is blaming its opponents for unleashing lethal propaganda against it in a bid to tarnish its image.

Although it is true that the party has provided tens of thousands of jobs in the last 10 years, can it be claimed they were all given on merit? The PPP established a large number of colleges and schools, and set up various campuses of universities. But Pir Mazharul Haq, the former education minister of Sindh, once revealed that over 4,000 schools in Sindh are non-functional.

While PPP leaders claim to have demonstrated miracles in the field of health, they struggle to explain the causes for the hepatitis epidemic in various parts of Sindh and the growing number of kidney patients across the province. The party has every right to assert that it supports the people of the country’s second largest province in terms of population. But the gloomy existence of millions of under-fed people in Sindh flies in the face of such claims.

Karachi’s petty estate agents and Wapda’s meter-readers have become billionaires, turning their meagre resources into mountains of opulence and prosperity with the help of their magical bands. The phenomenal rise in their fortunes has stunned many financial experts – and that too at a time when Sindh’s population is living in abject poverty.

The party has dismissed the charges of corruption as part of conspiracies “aimed at defaming the only true democratic force”. What PPP leaders have failed to understand is that the party’s good work is appreciated by anyone with a modicum of political consciousness. The PPP awarded tickets to low-caste Hindus and took action against those involved in the forced conversion of Hindu girls to Islam. Some of its progressive legislation even prompted many to praise Bilawal and his party. But this shouldn’t make the PPP believe that everything is hunky-dory in Sindh.

Is it not true that several SHOs and other police officers were only posted in one place for a few months, which contributed towards deteriorating law and order in Karachi and other parts of Sindh between 2010 and 2013? Is it not an open secret that a number of illegal hydrants were allegedly being run in Karachi by some of the party’s provincial lawmakers?

Is it merely a coincidence that a number of illegal activities, ranging from land-grabbing to sand-lifting, were being carried out in Malir where alleged certain blue-eyed boy was posted as a senior police officer for several years? It isn’t difficult to trace the missing links between such postings and the rampant corruption in different parts of Sindh.

Even today, you can hardly find a biker or rickshaw driver in Karachi who hasn’t greased the palms of cops at least once in the last 10 years. Millions of motorcycles and rickshaws ply the streets of the metropolis. So, one can imagine the huge amount that citizens may have poured into the pockets of the protectors of the law.

Cops are quick at detecting any type of construction in Karachi and minting money from people on various pretexts. But they have failed to nab several gangs, thieves and robbers that have deprived thousands or more citizens of mobiles, bikes and other belongings. They have even failed to arrest criminals who have been caught robbing citizens on camera.

Despite all that, the PPP ought to be respected and given a chance to introduce reforms because it has been voted into power by the people. We can only hope that through PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari’s active participation in political matters, the party will give serious thought to its style of governance. The party shouldn’t forget that some of its leaders have never been accused of corruption. If the charges of corruption were merely a conspiracy, then such allegations would have been hurled at all leaders.

To improve governance, devolution of powers is necessary. Zardari proudly says that he voluntarily surrendered powers to parliament when he was president. Why can’t he ask Sindh’s chief minister to devolve powers to local governments? Bilawal, who studied in the UK and must be familiar with the local bodies system in that country, should prevail upon his father on this issue. It will be a major step that would reflects the will of the PPP to resolve governance issues.

The writer is a freelancejournalist.

Email: [email protected]

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