Sindh govt assures Jamaat-i-Islami of disputed LG law’s review

Published January 10, 2022
SINDH Local Government Minister Nasir Hussain Shah speaks at the sit-in outside the Sindh Assembly on Sunday. Jamaat-i-Islami’s Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rehman is also seen.—Shakil Adil / White Star
SINDH Local Government Minister Nasir Hussain Shah speaks at the sit-in outside the Sindh Assembly on Sunday. Jamaat-i-Islami’s Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rehman is also seen.—Shakil Adil / White Star

KARACHI: Prolonged protests by the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), including a sit-in outside the Sindh Assembly that has lasted more than a week, against a recently passed local government law appeared to bear fruit on Sunday, when senior functionaries of the Sindh government reached out to the opposition party and promised to amend the law with “mutual understanding”.

Although JI welcomed the gesture by the Sindh government, however, it did not call off the sit-in outside the assembly building despite requests from officials of the provincial government, declaring instead that the protest would continue until the desired results were achieved.

Provincial local bodies minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah, Karachi’s administrator Barrister Murtuza Wahab and special assistant to the Sindh chief minister Waqar Mehdi visited the venue of the sit-in on Sunday night and held talks with leaders of the opposition party led by Hafiz Naeem-ur-Rehman.

After an hour-long meeting, the two sides agreed to constitute a committee comprising members from both the sides to hold talks “on a daily basis to find out a consensual solution”.

Opposition party spurns plea to call off sit-in

After the talks, Mr Shah addressed the participants of the protest and assured them that the Sindh government would take up their demands in line with the directives of PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari.

“The law [Sindh Local Government Amendment Act, 2021] is not a heavenly scripture,” he said. “We did in the past and we are still willing to amend it if this benefits the people of this province.

“We would definitely listen to your grievances and for that purpose we have set up a committee which would hold talks on a daily basis. We hope the two sides will soon reach a consensus for the larger interest of the people.”

He also requested the protesters and the JI leaders to call off their protest in view of the cold weather, and wait for the outcome of the said committee’s deliberations.

The minister said he would lead the government side in the talks along with provincial information minister Saeed Ghani. Mr Wahab and senior PPP leader Taj Haider would act as their aides.

The Sindh government has been under constant criticism ever since it got the Sindh Local Government Amendment Act, 2021 approved last month, with the opposition parties accusing the ruling party of weakening the municipal authorities and taking over control of all major areas of administration and social development.

Amid strong protests by almost all the opposition parties in the province, including the Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan and Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, the JI took a lead of sorts by holding a sit-in outside the Sindh Assembly on December 31 that called for withdrawal of the “black law”.

According to some analysts, however, the outstanding issues between the two sides are not likely to be resolved soon as the JI refused to call off its protest and conditioned it with certain changes in the local government law.

An interesting development took place on Sunday, when after the talks between the two sides, the provincial minister asked the participants about the fate of their protest. In response, JI’s Hafiz Naeem insisted that the sit-in would continue despite the promises made by the Sindh government delegation.

“We are not here for any political or vested interests but for the rights of the people of this province,” he said in his speech.

“We welcome the Sindh government for this gesture and we appreciate that they finally came to us and heard us. We are peaceful and don’t believe in politics of violence and agitation. We welcome this committee. But we are here for the rights of people and would only return when they get their rights.”

He asked the PPP leadership to replace the “black law” with a fresh and better one.

“As a result of the sit-in, we believe, a wave of awareness can be seen across the province as people of rural areas have started asking for their due rights. This sit-in is representing 60 million people of Sindh,” added the JI leader.

Published in Dawn, January 10th, 2022

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