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Monday May 27, 2024

Agreeing on the future?

By Editorial Board
April 02, 2022

The MQM-P, formerly an ally of the PTI government, has signed agreements with both the PPP and the PML-N on where to go forward from this point on. For the MQM-P, the PPP is an important consideration as far as dealing with governance is concerned, given that both are centred essentially in Sindh. The deal with the PPP states that the Supreme Court’s order regarding local government be implemented, the job quota question be resolved, fake domiciles be tackled, local policing be ensured, fake cases be withdrawn, the Hyderabad University be given the go-ahead, and development plans be discussed in advance. The agreement with the PML-N is largely focused on federal matters: the census schedule, the MQM-P’s role as stakeholder in urban Sindh, a development package for urban Sindh (especially Karachi), urban Sindh quota for federal jobs, support for the of restoration of MQM-P offices, the informal ban on political activities of the MQM-P, the missing persons question, among other issues.

The agreements are detailed and seem to have been decided keeping in mind some long-standing demands of the MQM-P as well as the rising questions regarding Karachi’s governance issues. In that, keeping aside all cynicism – considering the history of PPP-MQMP relations and the times ‘agreements’ have been agreed to and then not followed up on – the people of Karachi at least would hope that these agreements can succeed. While the PPP has constituency monopoly over most of Sindh, Karachi and Hyderabad are another story. Karachi has seen violence, poor governance and uncertainty for far too long and badly needs governance that works for its people and can offer them some degree of stability and development.

For the naysayers – and there are many on both sides – it may be important to see the Karachi of 2022 as a different reality from the city that existed 10-15 years back. This is in large part due to three factors: the 18th Amendment; a post-Altaf MQM, and the Karachi Operation. While the MQM’s hold over Karachi during the Musharraf years – and the way it wielded that power, accused often of violent tactics – is still remembered in glaringly different ways depending on which side of the PPP-MQM divide you stand on, it may be important to move on from there and see what urban Sindh needs at the moment. Post-18th Amendment, provincial governments have become all-powerful in their domains. Ideally, that should not stop them from granting local government the power it should have to run cities, the PPP government has been stingy about letting go of local governance. This has been a constant refrain from MQM-P quarters, which is why the SC order on local government implementation is probably the most important clause in the agreements. The MQM-P also probably realised that being in coalition with the PTI did not bring much benefit. At the end of the day, the PPP and the MQM-P will just have to work together in Karachi, which has deteriorated in almost all benchmarks of civic administration. Both parties would do well to remember that the past is another city.