Representatives of different political parties attend the conference hosted by the MQM-P at a local hotel on Tuesday.—Dawn
Representatives of different political parties attend the conference hosted by the MQM-P at a local hotel on Tuesday.—Dawn

KARACHI: Seeking a fresh constitutional amendment to strengthen local governments and loosen the grip of provincial governments over their affairs under 18th Amendment, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan won support for its demand from major political parties, sans Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), at a conference on Tuesday.

The MQM-P convened a conference — Empowered District Government, Strong Pakistan — at a local hotel. The conference was addressed by leaders of different political parties, including Mohammed Zubair of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Shahi Syed of the Awami National Party (ANP), Safdar Abbasi of the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA), Imran Ismail of the Istehkam-i-Pakistan Party (IPP), former finance minister Miftah Ismail, former chief of Federal Board of Revenue (FBR) Shabbar Zaidi and others.

It was largely agreed by the participants in the meeting that the Constitution required a review in line with the emerging challenges and for better and transparent governance system and it was high time that all democratic forces make a resolve before the Feb 8, 2024 general elections.

The participants gave their approval for making new changes to the Constitution to strengthen local governments in the country.

Major parties, sans PPP, back MQM-P demand for new amendment to Constitution

A point which was debated at length in the conference was about distribution mechanism of financial resources.

Under the 18th Amendment, 57.5 per cent of total proceeds will be horizontally distributed among the provinces and the Centre will keep the remaining 42.5pc of the total divisible pool.

Mustafa Kamal, former Karachi mayor and senior MQM-P leader, came up with a proposal to change the current formula of distribution of financial resources and also give constitutional cover to empowered local governments.

“In our present system of governance, the power means five offices — a prime minister and chief ministers of four provinces,” he said. “Is this what we call democracy? Or is this what we should call devolution of power?”

He continued: “We believe it’s needed to be changed immediately. We propose three major points for the Constitution — define power of local governments with specifically mentioning each and every department under their authority, formation of PFC [Provincial Finance Commission] like NFC and make elections of local government before the general election a constitutional requirement.”

MQM-P convener Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui thanked the leaders of other parties for attending the conference and supporting their agenda and described it a major success of his party to bring the political leadership of the country on the same page.

“The fact is that our current Constitution has not only failed to protect itself, but it has also failed to protect the rights of a common man,” he said. “And there’s a history of this unfortunate reality. Now it’s high time that we restore this noble document to its originality which was envisaged to protect the rights of a common man and not for the elite segment of the society.”

He said that the proposals for the fresh constitutional amendment would help achieve this target.

Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2023

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