KARACHI, Aug 26: Acting Governor Agha Siraj Durrani on Monday gave his assent to the disputed Sindh Local Government Act (SLGA), 2013 hours before Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad was due to return from his ‘personal UAE visit’ drawing serious criticism from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM).
Repeating its argument that the law is bound to cause a rural-urban division within the province, the MQM however did not rule out its participation in the upcoming local government elections even if they are held under the SLGA, 2013.
The signing of the bill by an acting governor in the absence of the governor came as a reminder of the February 2013 episode when Nisar Khuhro, the then speaker of the Sindh Assembly looking after the governor’s slot in the absence of Dr Ibad, had signed the SLGO, 1979, which was restored by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led government against the consent of the its major ally, the MQM.
The issue apparently led to the MQM parting ways with the PPP.
A spokesman for the Governor’s House, when contacted on Monday for his comment, could not explain the coincidence for a second time on the similar occasion. “The law could not be sent to the governor for his approval when he was here and when it was sent to the governor’s office, he was away abroad and the acting governor gave his assent to the law on behalf of the governor,” the spokesman said.
“Dr Ibad had left for the UAE on a private visit last week and is due to return tomorrow (Tuesday),” he said. “Along with the SLGA, 2013, acting Governor Mr Durrani also signed the Sindh High Density Development Board Act, 2013 recently enacted into law by the Sindh government.”
The Sindh Assembly passed the Sindh Local Government Bill, 2013 into law last week by a majority with various smaller parties supporting the draft despite strong reservations expressed by the MQM. The MQM staged a boycott in the assembly and vowed to continue to oppose the law on the floor of the house.
“Options are open… we will also move the apex court for a legal interpretation of the law, which is against the spirit of democracy and the constitution,” MQM lawmakers in the assembly said.
“We will keep our protest on in the elected house and also raise our voice against the law on other forums,” said senior MQM leader MPA Khawaja Izharul Hasan. “Beside, we are now approaching courts for legal interpretation of the Article 140-A of the constitution as we believe the law got approved by the PPP government is against the spirit of that particular article and the fundamental concept of the local government.”
He said the MQM stance was very clear. “The party has reasons to believe that the SLGA, 2013 will cause a rural-urban division within the province,” said MPA Hasan.
However, he did not rule out possibility of MQM participation in the next local government election if they are held under the new law.
“We are seeking opinion of the judiciary on the new law. If the SLGA, 2013 falls within the ambit of the constitution, I don’t think there is any harm in contesting the elections under the new law,” the MPA added.