Nov 21, 2011

Sindh: New Local Government System In The Making

After years of disagreement and corruption, a new framework for local government in Sindhi is now being negotiated but it remains to be seen whether it will deliver real benefits to all Sindhis.

Below is an article published by The Friday Times:

After several highs and lows, ties between the PPP and the MQM are normalising as the two sides negotiate a new local government system in Sindh. There are signs that post Zulfiqar Mirza, President Asif Zardari is taking personal interest in the matter. 

During the three years of fluctuating ties between the PPP and the MQM, the local bodies system in Sindh has been changed at least eight times. The PPP has tried its best to restore the old status of Hyderabad and divide Karachi in five districts, while it is in the MQM's interest to restore the SLGO 2001, a system installed by former president Pervez Musharraf. 

Provincial minister for local bodies Agha Siraj Durrani confirmed an agreement had been reached."Soon we will come to an amicable resolution and install a new system acceptable to everyone," he said. 

"All parties in Sindh, including the PML-F, PML-Q and even the nationalists, have been taken into confidence about the new setup," Durrani said.

An MQM central coordination committee member who was part of the team that negotiated with the PPP said the two sides "are trying to reach to an amicable resolution to the local bodies issues and the new system would be called Sindh Local Bodies System 2011". 

The ANP does not seem to be happy with the new developments. Its Sindh chief Shahi Sayed told TFT: "We are not in the loop, and we will reject a system in which development is only concentrated in certain areas and there is politicisation of city municipal departments." 

While the SLGO of 2001 brought development to urban Sindh, the system is said to lack a mechanism to check corruption. "The recent Bakra Mandi scam where billions had been minted by a corrupt EDO-veterinary backed by the MQM, proves that the politicalisation of municipal corporations has created many problems," a serving commissioner said, asking not to be named. 

On 13th July, the Sindh Assembly made the SLGO ordinance into an act, but on August 6, the MQM and the PPP reenacted the SLGO 2011. The move resulted in the establishment of two parallel systems in the province and led to massive protests. It was later withdrawn, only to be restored 24 hours later by Governor Ishratul Ebad on 7th August in all of Sindh for the next 90 days. The system was changed twice during October and November, and the ordinance could not be passed by the assembly within the stipulated 90-day period.

As the ordinance lapsed, there were concerns it would leave no governance system or structure at all, and a notification was issued to avert the disaster. 

On 14th November, Karachi was divided into five districts to be controlled by 18 different administrators who would take care of municipal services, while deputy commissioners would look after law and order. 

President Asif Zardari spent a week in Karachi to personally handle the local bodies system, the Zulfiqar Mirza issue, and the concerns of party members opposed to an alliance with the MQM or a deal on the local bodies system. 

Zardari made it clear to PPP members in a meeting, according to a source close to the president, "that any member found to be in touch with Zulfiqar Mirza would be sacked and that the local bodies system deal with the MQM was in the interest of the party, the province and the country". 

Leaders of the two coalition partners, including Sardar Ahmed, Wasay Jalil and Sagheer Ahmed of MQM and Durrani and Pir Mazharul Haq of PPP, had recently held a long meeting on the framework of the new local government system, but negotiations stopped because of the wedding of Haq's daughter. 

Zulfiqar Mirza warned that "going back to anything close to the SLGO of 2001 would be stabbing the people of Sindh in the back". He said people would protest against any such move. 

Sindhi nationalists Ayaz Palejo and Dr Qadir Magsi also called the PPP-MQM talks "a great betrayal".