Despite the dust storm and tough weather on Friday, the Jamaat-e-Islami Karachi continued its ongoing sit-in against the controversial new local government law outside the Sindh Assembly on the 22th consecutive day.
Representatives of the Pakistan Steel Labour Union (PSLU), religious minorities and trade organisations also visited the JI’s sit-in to express solidarity with the protesters and support their demands.
Addressing the protesters, JI Karachi Emir Hafiz Naeemur Rehman announced that the party would be holding a public convention on Sunday (tomorrow) on the local government bill and the party’s central chief, Sirajul Haq, would address the event.
He said that rough weather and political conditions in the city could not affect the will of the protesting JI workers. Talking about the controversial legislation, he said the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leadership always chanted the mantra of dictator Musharraf's laws whenever its leaders were reminded of the 2001 local government setup.
He advised the PPP leadership to thoroughly read out the Sindh Peoples Government Ordinance 1972 by Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. “Set aside the dictator's law and restore the powers of the local government setup in Sindh bestowed to it by Zulfikar Bhutto's regime in 1972,” Rehman said.
The JI leader reminded Sindh Information Minister Saeed Ghani that the 1972 local government law had placed the functions of planning, development and town improvement, master plan, town planning control, development control, building regulations, transport, traffic control, as well as all other development schemes and public housing departments under the control of the KMC.
Reiterating his demands, he said that Karachi — a city of 30 million people — needed a mega city government to run its affairs. He also demanded a mass transit system, direct elections for mayor and deputy mayor, and the policing system under an empowered mayor.
A day earlier on Thursday, a large number of women attended a sit-in held on the main University Road to protest against the PPP government in Sindh for bulldozing the local government bill through the provincial assembly that allegedly snatched the already curtailed powers of the local government setup.
JI Women Wing General Secretary Durdana Siddiqui, Sindh chief Rukhshinda Muneeb and Karachi chief Asma Safeer led the protest. Addressing the female protesters, the JI Karachi chief claimed that the religious party had launched a historic sit-in in the history of Karachi.
Rehman said the JI welcomed only meaningful dialogue with the provincial government. He vowed to continue the struggle for the city. “We will not bow down, nor compromise on the due rights of Karachi’s residents.”
He said the city generated 95 per cent of the revenue for the province, contributed 70 per cent of the revenue for the Centre, contributed 54 per cent in exports and paid 42 per cent of the total taxes collected in the country. However, he lamented, Karachi had been facing an acute water shortage, infrastructure crises, a shortage of electric supply and a very deep crisis of gas among other issues.