Friday January 21, 2022

Campaign against controversial local govt bill gains momentum

December 06, 2021
Campaign against controversial local govt bill gains momentum

Major political parties in Karachi have intensified their protest campaign to exert pressure on the Sindh government to take back the recently passed “controversial” local government bill, terming it an attempt on the part of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) to wrest more power.

Amid the opposition’s absence, and based on its numeric majority in the provincial assembly, the ruling PPP recently passed amendments to the LG law in a bid to take away the functions of education and healthcare from the municipal bodies, and replace open voting for electing mayors and deputy mayors with secret balloting.

Last week the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Pak Sarzameen Party (PSP) challenged the bill passed by the PA to amend the Sindh Local Government Act in the Sindh High Court. The PTI and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P), which are coalition partners in the federal government, have also announced convening separate multi-party conferences to muster the support of several political parties against the approval of the bill. The MQM-P and the Jamaat-e-Islami are also regularly holding protest rallies in the city.

MQM-P’s protest

The MQM-P has intensified its efforts to contact other political parties against the passage of the Sindh Local Government Bill by the PA, and invited them to attend the multi-party conference that will be held by December 11. The invited parties include the PTI, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl.

“The main purpose of holding the multi-party conference is to protest against the passage of the Sindh Local Government Bill, and to take back the snatched powers of the city governments in the province,” an MQM-P leader told The News, saying that other political and religious parties will also be invited.

On Sunday MQM-P leaders met PML-Functional President Syed Sibghatullah Shah Rashidi, and PML-N central leader and former Sindh governor Muhammad Zubair to invite them to join the conference.

The MQM-P has simultaneously been holding protest rallies at district level across the province. On Saturday the party held a demonstration outside the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital against the passage of the “controversial” LG bill.

Addressing the protesters, the MQM-P’s central leaders, including former city mayor Wasim Akhtar, Kunwar Naveed Jamil and Kishwar Zehra, said the amendments were aimed at rendering the LG institutions powerless. They lamented that the higher authorities and the judiciary were not taking notice of the PPP’s excesses in the province. The MQM-P will hold a protest on Monday (today) at Korangi 2½ Chowk.

JI’s power show

After observing a “black day” on Friday by holding protests, the JI has started preparations and a massive contact drive for an impressive power show on December 12 against the “controversial” bill. The JI’s Karachi chapter held a high-level meeting to examine the preparations and finalise the arrangements.

All the local chapters and organs of the party were directed to contact the public as well as prominent people from all walks of life, including religious clerics, and representatives from organisations of lawyers and traders, and other such bodies.

Speaking on the occasion, JI Karachi chief Hafiz Naeemur Rehman said the December 12 March is a very significant and important event in the prevailing political situation.

He said an empowered city government and union council set-up was the only solution to the burning and chronic issues of Karachi. He added that the problems of Karachi had reached a stage where they had to be considered an urgency.

Rehman said the PPP government in Sindh tried its level best to keep the matter of LG elections in limbo. He said the Election Commission of Pakistan’s (ECP) pressure had forced the provincial government to take the matter seriously.

Following the activism of the ECP, the Sindh government is trying to usurp all the powers and authorities of the LG set-up through unconstitutional legislation, he claimed. He warned that with the support of the masses, the JI would not let the PPP succeed in its “nefarious designs”.

Multi-party conference

The PTI has invited the MQM-P and the JI to their December 12 multi-party conference. “All political parties in Karachi have to unite on one page against the PPP,” said PTI Karachi President Khurrum Sher Zaman. “We can’t wait for the elections. They’ll destroy Sindh before the general elections.”

Three-point solution

PSP Chairman Mustafa Kamal, while addressing a meeting of the party’s Karachi Division, said a three-point solution has been proposed by his party for the resolution of the problems being faced by the country.

“First of all, by amending the 18th amendment, the powers and departments of the mayors in the style of the prime minister and the chief minister should also be included in the constitution,” said Kamal.

“The Provincial Financial Commission [PFC] should be made a subject to the National Financial Commission [NFC] Award by ensuring the launch of the PFC Award on the pattern of the NFC Award,” he added.

“Also, elections to the national and provincial assemblies should be made conditional on holding local government elections. Only these measures can solve most of the problems of Pakistan, otherwise the country might get stuck in a whirlpool.”