AS the Jamaat-i-Islami celebrated its ‘success’ on Friday for bringing the Sindh government of the Pakistan Peoples Party to its knees to further amend the local government law to give back control of major administrative affairs, including health, education, etc, major opposition parties criticised the right-wing party for agreeing on much ‘lesser terms’ it had actually demanded.
However, whatever the outcome of the agreement, many political commentators and independent observers see it as a ‘major success’ for the JI heralding its comeback in active, electoral and issues-based politics mainly in the business capital of the country where it was fast becoming ‘irrelevant’ when it came to election politics, mainly after former Karachi mayor Naimatullah Khan-led city government that ended in 2005.
As the rival parties came up with strong reactions against the JI for ‘compromising’ on short-term gains, JI admirers described the party’s strategy as a well-timed, calculated and right on the target, which it had planned when it came with the idea of a sit-in outside the Sindh Assembly on Dec 31, 2021.
“The biggest achievement is that whatever powers that had been seized in 2013 law have been returned to the local government,” JI Karachi chief Hafiz Naeem ur Rehman said while addressing a workers convention. “We moved on single point agenda — an empowered local government system. We rejected the agenda of ethnic politics and ruled out any possibility of violence even if some strong reactions came from the government. It was consistency of the Jamaat workers and belief in Allah that finally convinced the government to show flexibility.”
The JI shared some sketchy details of its ‘achievement’ which would empower the local administration that included authority over the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board and the Solid Waste Management Board, the control of educational and health institutions, which were taken over by the Sindh government through the controversial law, including Karachi Medical and Dental College, and an agreement to share revenue generated through motor vehicle tax with the local government.
The establishment of the Provincial Finance Commission with city mayor and town chairmen as its members is also propagated by the JI as one of its key demands that has been accepted by the Sindh government. However, it seems that the Sindh government’s control over the city development institutions remains intact with no change in its authority.
A very vague term has been used from the two sides who say that the city administration would have “active and effective role” in the operation of Karachi Development Authority, Malir Development Authority and the Lyari Development Authority.
The terms of the agreement that lifted the spirits and hopes of the JI and its workers provoked its opponents.
Amid applause from the media critics for its “struggle for rights of Karachi”, the opposition parties didn’t appear impressed.
They criticised the JI and alleged that it was facilitating the PPP government to cool down the anger against the ruling party brewing in the people of urban Sindh.
“I don’t have a shadow of a doubt that the PPP has befooled Hafiz Naeem ur Rehman,” said Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s Khawaja Izharul Hassan while addressing a press conference. “The things which are offered by the Sindh government like PFC are already there in the law. What actually they [JI] have achieved? I wonder how the seasoned and experienced party like Jamaat is trapped by the PPP.”
He continued: “We don’t accept this agreement; neither do we agree with anyone on the terms agreed between the two sides. Our struggle will continue till restoration of a fully empowered system.”
Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Zaidi went a step ahead.
He blamed ‘Zardari mafia’ for deceiving the JI and said the agreement between the two was actually against the spirit of the Constitution and Article 140.
“Zardari Mafia’s local body bill is against the spirit of constitution,” he tweeted. “This mafia wants to take over everything. This mafia has done nothing but looting in Sindh for 14 years.”
The reaction from political parties against their rivals sounds quite natural as amid growing momentum against the PPP government by the opposition, the JI makes a breakthrough, which ultimately undermines the efforts of others leaving lesser space for their success.
Political comeback of JI
Whatever the impact, the agreement between the JI and the Sindh government, according to senior journalist and columnist Mazhar Abbas, has given a new birth to the Jamaat’s politics in Karachi.
He called it a ‘comeback’ of the right-wing party in the electoral politics of the metropolis.
“There may be still some shortcomings, but one has to agree that the Sindh government, which should have delegated all these powers to the local administration, is moved only after the JI’s protest. It is the Jamaat that launched the movement, built it up and then continued it for consecutive 28 days,” he said.
“So, I think that will definitely give a political mileage to the Jamaat mainly in Karachi where it has lost space for decades,” he said.
Published in Dawn, January 29th, 2022