Sindh Local Government Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah announced on Sunday that the provincial government will hold the local government elections again. However, leaders of two opposition parties in Sindh alleged that the Sindh government was not serious about holding the polls for local bodies.
According to a statement issued, the minister paid a visit to the Shree Swami Narayan Temple where he talked to the media about the local government elections expected this year. He said Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had directed the Sindh government to empower the local governments in the province so that public issues could be expeditiously resolved.
He maintained that his party would ensure that the local government elections were held in the province. Shah also remarked that the minorities in Pakistan had been given equal status and they were enjoying all the rights as citizens of the country. It is Bilawal’s vision that the minorities’ rights should be protected at all cost, he added.
The local government minister said the minorities had a large representation in the PPP and the province had passed laws to protect the minorities. He added that the Sindh government had also taken steps to publish Bhagavad Gita. He was also presented an Ajrak on the occasion.
Meanwhile, leaders of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) have expressed their distrust of the Sindh government’s announcement of holding the local government elections.
Talking to The News, PTI leader Firdous Shamim Naqvi, who is also the leader of the opposition in the Sindh Assembly, said the PPP did not intend to hold the local body elections and the ruling party was planning to appoint administrators to govern the city.
He said the tenure of the Karachi mayor was ending on May 18 as he had taken the oath of his office at the Jinnah Ground on the same date four years ago.
Naqvi was of the view that delimitation of constituencies for the local government had not been announced by Sindh government yet which made it clear that the PPP was not serious about holding local body elections.
The opposition leader said it took about four months to complete the process for delimitation. He added that once that process was done, the stage of electoral rules would come, after which the government would ask the Election Commission of Pakistan to hold the local government elections.
The PTI leader also called for electing the mayors through a direct vote. He said the mayors of some famous cities of the world such as London and Chicago enjoyed immense powers and the Karachi mayor needed to be empowered like them.
Criticising the current local government law in Sindh, Naqvi said the Sindh Local Government Act 2013 had miserably failed to provide even basic civic facilities to the citizens and the current system had destroyed the infrastructure of the city.
He said both the PPP and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement were responsible for destroying the city.
All the appointments in the local government were made on political grounds, Naqvi alleged, adding that those running the local governments had no vision or experience.
When asked whether the PTI would participate in the local government elections, he said the party would fully participate in the polls to ensure the transfer of power at grassroots level.
The PTI leader said he was planning to table a bill in the Sindh Assembly for empowering the local governments in the urban areas of the province as the urban areas had different problems than the rural areas.
When asked whether the PTI’s or other opposition parties’ MPAs got development funds, he replied in the negative.
Naqvi said as the population of Karachi has been increasing, he was in favour of creating more districts in the city to resolve the problems of its residents.
Talking to The News, GDA legislator Nusrat Seher Abbasi also said the Sindh government was not willing to hold the local government elections.
The tenure of the current local governments has ended or is about to end but the PPP is reluctant to hold the elections, she claimed, adding that the PPP wanted to appoint the administrators of its choice so that it could control the local governments through bureaucracy.
She said even in the past, the Sindh government had to hold the elections because of the Supreme Court’s order and even now they were making preparations only on paper.
Nusrat said the provincial government did not devolve powers to grassroots level and demonstrated nepotism and cronyism in the last local government elections as those elected as the chairmen at the district level were relatives of PPP leaders.
When asked to comment on the Karachi mayor’s reservations over the census results, she said it was not only the Karachi mayor who had problems with the census results but every party, including the GDA, had also spoken against the results.
She was of the view that all the funds for local government were given to the PPP chairmen while the rest begged for money. The GDA leader claimed that corruption was rampant in the local government system from grassroots level to the top.
She said since the last 11 years, the PPP governments in Sindh had not provided development funds to the MPAs of the opposition parties. The PPP made such a law that all the funds were delivered to the MPAs of treasury benches, she claimed.
Commenting on the National Finance Commission (NFC) award, Nusrat said on the one hand the PPP criticised the federal government for not providing them funds under the NFC award but on the other hand, its provincial government did not provide a single penny to the opposition, saying that it was a violation of the constitution.
She said the provincial government was responsible for the performance of the Sindh Building Control Authority and if some corrupt officials belonging to the MQM-Pakistan were working there, the government could remove them.
The provincial home and finance departments were with the chief minister and everyone could see their performance, she said. The GDA leader asserted that the opposition had voiced concern against the rampant corruption many times but the voice of the opposition was always gagged.
Regarding the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR), Nusrat said it was the responsibility of the Sindh government to remove all the encroachments from the railway land and provide alternative land to the affected people.
She said the Sindh government had allowed land grabbers to encroach upon several acres of land. She added that the KCR was a demand of not only the people of Karachi but also the people across Sindh and the project was delayed for many years because of the provincial government.