KARACHI, Feb 21: In a move that at once gives a much-needed boost to Pakistan People’s Party popularity across Sindh and helps the Muttahida Qaumi Movement establish its credentials as a genuine opposition party, the Sindh Assembly on Thursday repealed the ‘Sindh People’s Local Government Act, 2012’ and revived the ‘Sindh Local Government Ordinance, 1979’.
It was not immediately clear how the move — greeted by noisy protests of Muttahida MPAs and jubilant cheers of PPP lawmakers — will affect the anti-government campaign of the combined opposition, comprising MPAs of the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional, PML-Likeminded, PML-Q, the National People’s Party and the Awami National Party.
The combined opposition previously made much political capital out of the local government law blamed for introducing a dual system in the province.
When bill No 14 of 2013, seeking the repeal of the new local government law and revival of the 1979 ordinance, was introduced as a supplementary order of the day by Law Minister Ayaz Soomro, all PPP members of the assembly were jubilant.
The MQM legislators — who recently sought to join the opposition benches reportedly eyeing the slot of the leader of the opposition crucial to the establishment of a caretaker set-up — converged in front of the speaker’s desk and started chanting anti-government slogans.
Speaker Nisar Ahmad Khuhro, who had called the house in order after an inordinate delay of two and a half hours, at 12.30pm against the scheduled time of 10am, asked the lawmakers to take their seats and speak through the microphone to record their points of view. By the time they resumed their seats, the ruling party amid the unprecedented outcry by members across the house got its bill through by a voice vote.
The chair, after the order was restored, gave the floor to Syed Faisal Sabzwari, deputy leader of the MQM parliamentary party, expressing surprise over the bill said that until recently the chief minister and other ministers were telling the people of Sindh at public meetings that the new local government law would improve civic services, including supply of clean drinking water, laying of sewerage, with provisions of improved services of healthcare and education.
Addressing the PPP ministers, he said the people would certainly be justified in asking them that when the MQM was their partner, the law was very good, but now when the MQM had sought allotment of the opposition benches, it was dubbed the worst law.He termed it a summersault and political jugglery saying the law promulgated by Gen Ziaul Haq was a black judgment against the people of Sindh as the Local Government Ordinance 1979 did not allow the mayor and administrator to spend their money for the people’s betterment.
Mr Sabzwari said it was the province’s bad luck that political and administrative affairs had always been used to divide the rural and urban populations for political expediency. And now when the assembly was about to complete its tenure, the people’s sentiments were being exploited for political gains.
Saying that whenever they had the authority, they would take all necessary measures for the people’s welfare, the MQM legislators staged a walkout from the assembly.
Senior Minister Pir Mazhar-ul-Haq taking the floor termed the MQM walkout a ploy to gain political mileage and said the justice and parliamentary traditions demanded that after condemning the PPP they should have heard the government response.
He said all laws were good if implemented in their true spirit. He said Karachi was not anybody’s fiefdom and it belonged to the people of Sindh whose fishermen had developed it. “We will not allow anyone to do politics on Sindh, which is our mother. The law which was revived was the wish of the people of Sindh,” he said. “Despite our best efforts to live in harmony, we were stabbed in the back by the MQM.”
Local Government Minister Agha Siraj Durrani used the occasion to praise President Asif Ali Zardari for his vision and pursuing the policy of reconciliation to take all parties along. “With the passage of the new bill, we have won the hearts of the people,” he remarked. He said the PPP would never go against interests of the people of Sindh and “today the assembly has proved it”.
He said the MQM had its own views and had taken the decision according to its perception. “We have not pushed them out. They left on their own. Our doors are open for all, including Arif Jatoi and other old allies,” he said and urged the joint opposition to come back into the PPP fold to run the democratic system and unite for the sake of the province and betterment of its people.
Sharjeel Memon said the repeal of the act was political death of the opposition. The PPP did not take a U-turn but had taken a decision in the interest of the people of Sindh as some elements had made negative propaganda against the party over the SPLG Act. Arif Mustafa Jatoi was heard saying that the repeal of the SPLG Act 2012 “is our success”.
Other members from the opposition also tried to draw the attention of the speaker, but could not take the floor as they were reminded that after the passage of the bill there was no point in making speeches.