No more excuses

Published January 14, 2023

THE ECP has done the right thing by refusing to delay the LG polls, due tomorrow in Karachi. The postponement was based on flimsy excuses put forth by the PPP administration in Sindh and its allies in the MQM.

The ECP’s decision on Friday followed the high drama of the previous day, when the disparate wings of the MQM came together — or were brought together — and called for delaying the polls yet again due to what they said were faulty delimitations.

In a late-night development, the Sindh government obliged its coalition partner by announcing that the second phase of the LG polls in the province would be delayed in Karachi and Dadu, though it would go ahead in a few other districts.

The ECP asserted that the polls would go ahead as planned, while asking the centre to deploy army and Rangers’ personnel to provide security to sensitive polling stations.

Before discussing the dire need for elected local bodies in Sindh, a few words about the spectacle that played out in Karachi on Thursday are in order. In a marriage of convenience — or perhaps a ‘forced marriage’ — the MQM-P took back into its fold the PSP, led by Mustafa Kamal, as well as Farooq Sattar who had formed his own faction.

The PSP was created by Mr Kamal in 2016 in dramatic fashion, as the former Karachi mayor tore into his erstwhile party and ex-benefactor Altaf Hussain. However, the PSP’s electoral performance was dismal, despite the general view that it enjoyed the establishment’s blessings.

It remains to be seen how this ‘united’ motley crew attempts to regain the electoral space once claimed by the Altaf-led MQM. However, what is disturbing is that the reunion seems to have taken place at the behest of some of the party’s ‘friends’ in Rawalpindi, who apparently do not want to see the PTI consolidate its position in the metropolis.

The MQM is free to make or break alliances with whomsoever it wishes. However, what cannot be accepted is the party’s desire to stop the LG polls by hook or by crook, as the Muttahida leaders insinuated they would do in Thursday’s presser.

They may have genuine concerns about delimitations and have every right to boycott the election process if they feel it is not fair. But to forcefully stop millions of citizens of the megacity from choosing their local representatives cannot be allowed; it very much harks back to the violent MQM of old.

The fact is that changing an inadequate local government law, addressing unjust delimitations and negotiating with the provincial administration for more powers for the city government is something best achieved by an elected mayor.

No further obstacles should be placed to prevent the people from exercising their constitutional right.

Published in Dawn, January 14th, 2023

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