MQM-P convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui and fellow party leaders on Saturday highlighted what they feel is the disproportionate division of resources in Sindh, urging Prime Minister Imran Khan to intervene and invoke Article 149 of the Constitution in order to help the province's urban populace "get their long-deprived due share".
Siddiqui, who is also the minister for Information Technology in the federal cabinet, slammed what he described as Sindh's "ethnocentric" government for allegedly hoarding the province's resources and powers.
"In the entire history of Pakistan, there is no precedent of the way Sindh's ethnocentric government — one that holds an artificial majority — has created records for corruption, dishonesty and bigotry," he said.
"It was patriotic Pakistanis who left their homes, navigated seas of blood and fire and migrated to this country; who laid the foundations of industries, banks and airlines, and formed the backbone of this country.
"All these things were prised away from the migrants in the name of 'nationalisation'," he regretted, referring to Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's era. "Subsequently, Sindh's feudal lords were made the owners of those industries, banks, airlines, etc."
Siddiqui said that Sindh may appear as a single, undivided landmass, but the province has "already been divided in the name of a quota system".
"Sindh had been split on that very day in 1972 when a quota system was enforced on the basis of urban and rural areas," he said.
"There are two Sindhs: one that generates 95 per cent of it's revenue, and the other one that does not even contribute five per cent but devours that 95 per cent."
"What is a quota system?" he asked. "It is as if you were able-bodied and I were disabled, and then I demanded, insisted and legislated that you must be amputated and your limb transplanted to my body. This is exactly what happened.
"There already exist two Sindhs. There just needs to be an [official] announcement for it."
The IT minister, who was flanked by several veteran MQM-P leaders, further accused the provincial authorities of hogging powers in the guise of the 18th Amendment.
"The 18th Amendment was made on the argument that the devolution of power to the grassroots level was necessary," he said. "But we, as well as the public, were deceived. Instead of devolution of power, there was an accumulation of power [solely] at the provincial level through the 18th Amendment.
"Our demand is that 30 to 35 per cent of provincial resources, institutions, and powers be devolved immediately to the lowest levels [local government]. The sovereignty of provinces is important to us, but it is not dearer to us than the country's sovereignty."
The MQM-P convener also questioned why, allegedly, a much greater share of important administrative positions have historically gone to citizens with interior Sindh domicile.
"The divide in Sindh, more than administrative, urban or rural, is actually linguistic," he said. "The chief secretary is from interior Sindh and is Sindhi. And it has never happened in 40 years that [another ethnicity] represents interior Sindh. Of the 45 secretaries in Sindh, 41 are Sindhi. Only four are from the urban areas. In districts, there are 29 commissioners of which 26 are from interior Sindh. Of the 29 deputy commissioners, 28 are from interior Sindh.
"The IG, of course, is just one [non-Sindhi] and is from another province. Of the five AIGs, four are from interior Sindh and one is from KP. There are 27 DIGs of which 20 are from interior Sindh, three are from other provinces and just four are from Sindh's urban areas.
"Is this quota or is this prejudice? Even if this [division of jobs] was [done by a] quota then the ratio should have been 60:40."
Siddiqui then urged the federal government and the prime minister to step in "before it is too late and there erupts a free for all for Sindh's resources, in particular, water".
"Now, it is the federal government's responsibility that it takes action on these injustices," he said. "We have dozens of human rights petitions pending in courts. All we asked the honourable courts was to remove the impediments in our path to justice.
"Sindh's urban population and the migrant community hasn't just been cornered, it has been suffocated. We are not incidentally Pakistanis. In 1947, as per an international accord, we chose Pakistan. It is our first and final choice.
"We demand from the prime minister that he use his powers under Article 149 of the respected Constitution and get the people of Sindh their due rights. We also request the chief justice to look into this matter.
"We are taking this case to the public on April 27 at Bagh-e-Jinnah. We have had enough."
Siddiqui also distanced his party from any anti-Pakistan elements, saying: "We do not need certificates of patriotism, but we severely condemn the anti-Pakistan slogans chanted in Washington by people flying MQM flags. We completely disown them and have nothing to do with what happened. We will fight all such conspiracies."
'Leave ethnic politics behind and work with PPP,' Bilawal advises MQM
PPP Chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, following Siddiqui and co's stinging press conference, advised MQM-P to "leave their ethnic politics behind and work with PPP for Karachi's betterment".
"I ask them to forget this ethnic politics and work with the PPP," Bilawal said. "I am also the son of Karachi; Shaheed Benazir Bhutto was also born in Karachi. We want to work for the people, with the KMC, devolve the powers further to local bodies ... these were all MQM's demands," he stated, claiming that PPP had made significant resource transfers to local governments in the past but failed to see results.
"If they wish for work to get done, then the MQM should stand with us. If they want to have Sindh's people fighting one another, then they should keep this up. But what will happen then is that they will suffer. And even worse, face defeat. MQM has several good people, but they should forget their old politics," he warned.