Sindh Provisional Assembly passes Local Government system bill amid protest
By: Imtiaz Ali
KARACHI: The Sindh People’s Local Government (SPLG) bill was passed in the Sindh Assembly on Monday amid an uproar by the opposition in-waiting.
Legislators belonging to the estranged allies of the government, who have applied to sit on the opposition benches, staged a protest at the rostrum for a considerable time, tore copies of the SPLG bill and chanted slogans against it.
Around 13 MPAs of the PML-F, NPP, ANP, PML-Like Minded and PML-Q, out of a total 168 members in the House, chanted slogans, alleging that the new local government system was a move to divide Sindh.
Initially, the SPLG Ordinance, 2012, recently promulgated by the Sindh governor, was introduced in the House. Subsequently, Law Minister Muhammad Ayaz Soomro presented a supplementary order of the day to take up the SPLG bill for legislation and within a few minutes, the bill was passed into law as legislators of the estranged allies staged a boycott.
At one point, PPP’s Senior Minister Pir Mazharul Haq and PML-F’s woman legislator Marvi Rashdi used strong words against each other forcing Speaker Nisar Ahmed Khuhro to observe that whatever was said at the rostrum and away from the microphone was not part of the assembly proceedings.
Later, the legislators of the estranged allies chanted slogans at the main gate of the Assembly, terming it a black law.Parliamentary leader of the PML-F Jam Madad Ali told the media that the SPLG was more harmful than the One-Unit system. He said the party’s main demand was that there should be uniformity of system for the whole province, but the new local government law had introduced two systems, one for five districts and another for 18 districts. He also questioned the urgency of summoning the session at the 11th hour and passing the law hurriedly.
Jam said the party was informed through the media on Sunday evening that the government had summoned the Sindh Assembly session for Monday morning, but it was not aware whether the SPLG bill would be brought before the House or not. He claimed the party received the order of the day of the assembly at mid-night.
The PML-F leader said the agenda of the House clearly mentioned that the ordinance would be laid, but to their utter surprise, the bill was passed into law hurriedly. He asked what the urgency was, adding that if the legislation had been passed in a normal way, there would not have been so much anger.
He said they were followers of Pir Pagaro whose 50,000 followers (Hurs) had embraced martyrdom to get independence for Sindh from the colonial rulers. He said now the ANP, NPP, PML-Q (Arbab Group), PML-Q Mahar Group and all nationalist parties as well as the people of Sindh were with them in protest.
Jam also took a strong exception to the attitude of the speaker, Finance Minister Murad Ali Shah, and Senior Education Minister Pir Mazharul Haq in the House. He said abusive language was used in the House against the PML-F’s female legislators Marvi Rashdi and Nusrat Abbasi. He said PPP legislators who preferred silence during voting on the legislation would also be treated among the list of traitors of Sindh. If they had courage and love for mother Sindh, they should have opposed the bill, he said.
The NPP’s parliamentary leader Masroor Jatoi said the people of Sindh were against the two systems. He said it was their demand that the ordinance, promulgated in the darkness of night, should be withdrawn and a committee, comprising legislators of all the parties representing the Sindh Assembly, should be formed to look into possible flaws in the ordinance to bring a uniform system for the province. He said they were not against local governments but against the policy of “Idhar Hum, Udhar Tum,” – an oblique reference to the famous slogan prior to the break-up of Pakistan in 1971.
Jatoi said the PPP introduced the ordinance in darkness and decided to summon the assembly in the darkness of night and asked why the session was called hurriedly. ANP’s parliamentary leader Amir Nawab said when the PPP-led regime had introduced one LG system for Karachi and Hyderabad and another system for the rest of Sindh, it triggered widespread protests that prompted the government to withdraw the same. Subsequently, he said the local bodies system of 1979 was restored by the assembly. Amir said his party failed to understand why another ordinance was promulgated.
If there were flaws in the 1979 system, the same could have been addressed, but the allies were not consulted. He said in stable democracies, opinion was also sought from parties that did not even have representation in legislature. The ANP leader accused the PPP of laying the foundation of the division of Sindh.
PML-Q legislator Shaharyar Mahar said the new local government law enshrined metropolitan corporations for five major cities and councils for the rest of the districts in Sindh province, which were two separate systems with the former being given more powers and independence.
Earlier, MPAs of the opposition in-waiting demanded that they should be given opposition seats and staged a protest at the dais. Speaker Nisar Ahmed Khuhro observed that resignation of ministers was still awaited, adding that re-allotment of seats at this moment would create disorder in the House. He reminded MPAs of the estranged allies that there were certain MPAs in the House who opposed the Pakistan Resolution in 1943 and hence today they could oppose the new local government system if they wished.
Zeeshan Azmat adds: The Awami National Party (ANP) is a democracy-loving party and has always supported strengthening democracy in the country, ANP Sindh President Shahi Syed said on Monday, adding that it was for this reason that the Sindh ANP had decided to oppose the Sindh People’s Local Government Bill (SPLGB) 2012, which was passed by the provincial assembly.
“Although, we were aware that we could not affect the voting process in the Sindh Assembly, the ANP members in the assembly cast their votes against the bill,” Senator Syed further said.
Blaming the PPP for passing the ‘controversial bill’, he claimed that the PPP would face serious public reaction during the next general elections. According to him, such measures were taken under political pressure and to strengthen the PPP regime only. “However, the government forgets that it cannot suppress the public voice on the issue,” Syed added. “The results of the next general elections will not go in favour of the PPP as they have passed a bill which does not represent the people’s choice. The people of the province are not in favour of this system, and they have refused to accept it. By taking a solid stance against the bill, the Sindh ANP has once again proved its allegiance to the people and land of Sindh,” Senator Syed said. Unfortunately, the PPP and its coalition partners finalised the clauses of the bill in the darkness of the night and did not consult others, he added.
The ANP Sindh was the first to oppose the SPLGO and raise a voice against it, which was seconded by other political, religious and nationalist parties. The ANP’s provincial ministers tendered their resignation over the matter, and the nationalist party decided to sit on the opposition benches after parting ways from the coalition government, Syed added. The PPP leaders are not facing the public and are even avoiding taking part in debates on the media on this issue. “The largest political party of Sindh is under fire due to its role on the SPLGO issue,” Syed said.