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LG election in Sindh put off for fifth time

August 24, 2010

KARACHI, Aug 23: This time citing the ravaging floods and their aftermaths as a reason for the decision, the Sindh government on Monday put off, for a fifth time in a year, the holding of next local government election in the province for an indefinite period.

An ordinance — Sindh Local Government (Fifth Amendment) Ordinance, 2010 — has been promulgated by Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad, postponing the LG polls indefinitely.

A spokesman for the Governor's House said the holding of LG election had been deferred in view of the devastating floods across the country. “The LG election will be held [in the province] when the situation returns to normality,” he remarked.

He said the ordinance was promulgated on the advice of Chief Minister Syed Qaim Ali Shah.

Through the latest amendment in the Sindh Local Government Act, 2010, the provincial government is now bound to hold the next LG polls under a new legislation and not under the SLGO, 2001, as it was clearly stated in the amended ordinance that the provincial government would approach the Chief Election Commissioner only after the enactment of a new LG law.

Since the unanimous passage of the Sindh Local Government Act, 2010 by the Sindh Assembly in January, the law has been amended as many as five times due to different reasons, mainly to give the Pakistan People's Party and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement more time to craft a consensus new LG law.

The actual timeframe envisaged in the Sindh Local Government Act, 2010 for making a new local government law and holding LG election in Sindh was 30 days and 120 days, respectively. However, negotiations between the PPP and the MQM to enact a new LG law became deadlocked and on March 21, the governor promulgated another ordinance, extending the deadline for making a new law and holding elections in 45 days and 165 days, respectively.

As the PPP and the MQM failed to reach a consensus, the Sindh governor in May promulgated the Sindh Local Government (Fourth Amendment) Ordinance, 2010, giving 105 more days for holding deliberations to make a new LG law, and then to ensure the holding of the LG polls in 180 days. The deadline for crafting a new consensus LG law was ending on Aug 23 while the provincial government, under the previously amended ordinance, was bound to hold LG election by the third week of November.

As the Aug 23 deadline was approaching, the governor promulgated the latest ordinance which reads: “In the Sindh Local Government Ordinance, 2001, in Section 179-A, for Sub-Section (5), the following shall be substituted: “(5) On dissolution of the Local Governments and Councils, after enactment of new Local Government law, the Government shall request the Chief Election Commissioner for holding the elections of Local Governments on a date as may be fixed by the Government”.

The indefinite postponement of the local government elections in Sindh clearly shows that despite having many disagreements, the PPP and the MQM are on a same page regarding running the local government institutions by bureaucrats, who replaced elected nazims in February.

Sources said that according to an understanding between the PPP and the MQM, the local governments of Karachi and Hyderabad were being looked after by Governor Ibad and Information Technology Minister Raza Haroon on behalf of the MQM while the rest of the Sindh districts were being controlled by various PPP leaders.

At present, the PPP-MQM talks to craft a mutually acceptable local government law in Sindh were deadlocked as the PPP wanted to curtail the powers of the local governments by enforcing the local government system of 1979 while the MQM favoured empowered local governments in the light of the SLGO, 2001.

The sources said it appears to be an uphill task that the PPP and the MQM would reach a consensus and craft a new LG law in months to come.

“I think local government elections are not going to be held under the present set-up,” said a senior MQM leader, seeking not to be named. “Traditionally, the LG polls were held in the rule of military dictators and not under a democratically elected government.