KARACHI, April 1: With the main focus on achieving a complete autonomy for the local government institutions, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement unveiled on Monday its 22-point manifesto titled ‘Empowering people’ for the forthcoming general elections.
While the MQM promised to bring reforms in almost every sector, a cursory look at the election manifesto suggested that the LG system was still its top priority, as the party pledged to give more powers and grant complete autonomy with unity of command to the city and district governments if voted into power.
Even senior MQM leader Dr Farooq Sattar lamented that although a democratic government had completed its five-year term, the biggest democratic deficit was the absence of LG system and participatory democracy.
“It is good to see a transition from one democracy to another, yet the fate of the people has not changed,” said Dr Sattar while speaking at a press conference. “The future of democracy and common man cannot be secured without the third tier of the government.”
Dr Sattar read out salient features of the MQM manifesto, whose Urdu version contained 23 points while the English version had 22 points, and pledged to achieve a completely devolved local government system, imposition of a farm tax and to lift a bar on dual nationality holders to contest elections.
He said if voted to power addressing the widening budget deficit would be the first priority of the MQM and then the local government system, which he termed the voice of the masses.
He promised that the MQM would create a single administrative agency in every city or district that should be under the administrative control of an elected mayor for unity of command. The traffic administration would be delinked from the police in all metropolitan cities and the department would be transferred to the city or district government, he added.
According to the MQM manifesto, the police would be brought under the administrative control of the city and district governments and provincial accountability bureaus would be set up to curb corruption.
He said the local governments would be given full autonomy and LG polls would be held within three months after the general elections.
He said all schools, colleges up to the intermediate level and hospitals at the town level would be given under the control of the city and district governments.
The MQM would establish a community policing system under the LG institutions.
He said if voted to power, the MQM would resolve the energy crisis and the issue of circular debt in the power sector to minimise loadshedding in the country and to reduce the prices of petroleum products.
Dr Sattar said the principle of ‘no representation without taxation’ would be adhered to and all written-off loans would be recovered, while administrative working of state institutions such as the Pakistan International Airlines and the Pakistan Railways would be improved.
On terrorism and law and order, he said peace and order could not be guaranteed without the people’s participation. He said the MQM, if voted to power, would make necessary changes in the Police Act of 1861 to introduce public safety bodies.
He said the MQM would develop a national counterterrorism policy and to bring meaningful changes in the judicial and prosecution system, make the law-enforcement agencies independent and launch an awareness campaign to curb terrorism, religious extremism and sectarian hatred.
Flanked by other members of the MQM coordination committee, Dr Sattar said the MQM would abolish the dual system of education and all Urdu-medium institutions would be brought at par with the English-medium institutions. “Budgetary allocation for education would be raised from 2.2 per cent to 5 per cent of the GDP and an outlay of 20 per cent would be reserved for education in the provincial budget.”
He said steps would be taken to bring seminaries in the mainstream system of education.
About the health sector, he said the MQM would increase the budgetary allocation from 0.6pc to 5pc of the GDP, low-cost insurance policies would be introduced and laws for organ transplant and illegal trade of cadaverous organs would be strictly implemented.
About the foreign policy, Dr Sattar said the MQM wanted friendly relations with all countries, particularly the neighbouring states. “The Kashmir dispute will be resolved through meaningful and genuine dialogues according to the wishes and aspirations of the Kashmiri people.”
He said projects to ensure supply of natural gas and electricity from Iran, Qatar and the Central Asian Republics would be undertaken; the CNG policy would be reviewed and CNG price would be reduced gradually.
The MQM also promised to give 50pc representation in parliament and provincial assemblies to women, ensure the eradication of child labour in the country and would abolish all discriminatory laws against women and religious minorities.
About agricultural reforms, he said the MQM would place a limit on the maximum land holdings of an individual and surplus land would be distributed among landless farmers.
Speaking about the judiciary, the MQM leader said his party would establish a comprehensive plan for witness protection and give it a constitutional cover to encourage citizens to come forward and testify without any fear.
Dr Sattar said the MQM would continue its struggle to empower the people with a belief that the people would repose confidence in the MQM on May 11, the day of polling for general elections.