KARACHI: Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif decided on Sunday to send a team of troubleshooters to Karachi for placating the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan after the party opposed the Sindh government’s decision to hold local government elections in the metropolis and Hyderabad under the existing delimitation.

Minutes after the MQM-P threatened at a presser in Karachi to approach the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) against what he called “jerrymandering”, federal Minister for Economic Affairs Sardar Ayaz Sadiq called MQM-P leader Aminul Haque and informed him that he would visit his party’s office on Monday (today) in order to address its concerns.

According to sources, a federal government delegation would hold talks with MQM-P leaders and is also likely to meet the Pakistan Peoples Party leadership in order to find a way out for holding the Jan 15 polls in time.

“Sardar Sadiq assured the MQM-P leader that the delegation, in line with the PM’s directives, will take all stakeholders on board and do its best to address the party’s concerns,” said a source privy to the telephonic conversation.

Khalid rejects Jan 15 LG polls under existing delimitation; Ayaz due in Karachi today

Earlier, a hurriedly called meeting of the Muttahida’s coordination committee discussed the development and charted a fresh line of action in case the “situation remains unchanged”.

The meeting was chaired by Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui, the party’s convener.

Dr Siddiqui expressed fears that local bodies elections in Karachi under the existing delimitation would be against the city’s mandate, vowing to approach a court and the Election Commission of Pakistan for “justice”.

He admitted that the PPP had accepted a number of Muttahida’s demands under the Charter of Rights the two parties had signed in April, but made it clear that “we stand by our demand for a fresh census and delimitation before any electoral exercise in urban Sindh”.

Later addressing a press conference at the party’s headquarters in Baha­durabad, the MQM-P converner said: “We are justified to question the Election Commission what authority the Sindh government has for delimitation.

“This unfair delimitation has thrown up haphazard constituencies which will serve vested interests. We look to the prime minister for resolving the matter, but unfortunately I am not hopeful.”

The meeting was informed that the Muttahida had already approached the Sindh government about a verdict given by the Supreme Court on Feb 1 last year directing it to make the LG system “empowered”.

“This primarily demands fresh delimitation before polling.”

The Sindh government wrote last week to the ECP seeking its opinion for “further necessary action” on the apex court’s verdict.

AG’s opinion

The Sindh government attached an opinion of the advocate general that lends credence to the MQM-P’s stance on devolution of powers and fresh delimitation. However, Dr Siddiqui didn’t sound confident that the outcome would be in his party’s favour before the Jan 15 polls.

“Everyone should keep this in mind the ECP will be responsible if elections are held in Karachi and Hyderabad with no law in sight to stop electoral mismanagement,” he added.

“In the census [2017] Karachi was already counted as half of its actual size and there can be no greater injustice than this,” the Muttahida leader said.

“Look at the disproportion between constituencies. One has 30,000 voters while a neighbouring unit has over 100,000. Such distortion will never reflect Karachi’s true mandate.”

Dr Siddiqui said his party had exhausted all options to get justice for Karachi. “I took the Peoples Party and the Pakistan Democratic Movement leadership at their word, but, unfortunately, I feel helpless now.”

Published in Dawn, January 2nd, 2023

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