Zardari asks PPP’s Sindh ministers to get ready for LG polls
KARACHI: President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday advised ministers belonging to the People’s Party to start preparations for local government elections, which would be held in the “not too distant future”.
During a meeting with members of the Sindh cabinet belonging to PPP at the Bilawal House here, Mr Zardari directed the provincial government to reach out to people and try to solve their problems.
The much talked about meeting of an MQM delegation with the president, which was scheduled for Monday, had to be rescheduled as PPP’s top leadership decided to sort out matters with Mr Altaf Hussain first. As such, Interior Minister Rahman Malik was sent to London for talks with Mr Hussain on issues that have created bitterness between the two coalition partners.
These issues include target killings and the matters connected with the local government set-up. Bitterness between MQM and the PPP increased when MQM ministers stayed away from a federal cabinet meeting in Lahore, albeit for security reasons. The MQM meeting with Mr Zardari was now expected on Tuesday or Wednesday but only after the Altaf-Malik talks.
According to a media release issued after the meeting at the Bilawal House, the president advised the provincial government to set up a separate ministry for overseeing the flood rehabilitation and reconstruction effort.
The meeting also took stock of the law and order situation, the recent spate of targeted killings, flood relief measures and issues relating to coalition in the province.
The meeting reviewed the overall law and order situation in the province and concerns expressed by coalition partners. Mr Zardari asked the provincial government to take stern action against elements involved in target killings.
Sources said that Mr Zardari, while sensing that opposition parties might try to convert the momentum for LG elections into a campaign for an early general election, asked the PPP ministers to step up their contacts with masses and address their problems by holding open kutcheris before local government elections.
He said the LG elections would be held in the not too distant future after consultation with coalition partners and all stakeholders.
The sources said the ministers sought the president’s influence in the finalisation of an agreed legislation for the new local government system and for holding of its elections. The matter has hit snags owing to reservations of MQM with whom PPP’s relationship is somewhat sour.
They said the meeting was informed by the minister concerned that if the legislation was ready, the LG elections could be held in March or April next year.
The meeting was briefed about the progress in flood rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts. President Zardari directed the provincial government to make adequate provisions to help the flood-affected people cope with winter.
A major concern of the PPP ministers was the slow process of rehabilitation of flood-affected people in their areas, especially in view of the onset of winter. It was emphasised that efforts should be geared up for providing tents and warm clothing.
They expressed fears that if the matter was not handled efficiently and in a transparent manner, it might affect the party’s performance in the coming elections
The president advised the provincial government to speed up work for legislation for the reinstatement of provincial employees who had been sacked after the removal of PPP government in 1996.
On a presentation made by Minister Ayaz Soomro, Mr Zardari advised the government departments concerned to prepare a plan for the upgradation of water supply and sewerage system in selected districts of the province.
About revamping of the education sector, the president said that evening classes should be started in institutions of major cities.
The meeting was attended by Chief Minster Syed Qaim Ali Shah, provincial ministers and senior federal and provincial government officials.
Provincial ministers Zulfiqar Mirza, Manzoor Wassan, Siraj Durrani, Syed Murad Ali Shah and Ali Nawaz Shah made presentations about their ministries.