Back to basics


The expiry of the Sindh Local Government Ordinance 2001, re-promulgated by Governor Ishratul Ebad on August 4, has automatically revived the old administrative system across the province at a time when the ruling coalition is grappling with a number of problems.
The PPP and the MQM were left with no choice but to accept the revival of the commissionerate system because under the 18th Amendment no ordinance can be promulgated for a second time. Both parties knew that they would have to table a consensus bill in the Sindh Assembly but despite concerted efforts they failed to prepare a mutually acceptable draft that could also address the grievances of other political stakeholders.
The Sindh government rolled back the commissionerate system and replaced it with the Musharraf-era local government system to win back the Muttahida Qaumi Movement which had walked out of the ruling coalition. President Zardari had to intervene to neutralise the opposition from within his own party and the nationalist leadership to deal with the pressure being brought to bear upon the PPP for doing away with the old administrative system.
The PPP legislators who have been frequently interacting with their party leadership had a point in seeking the uniform enforcement of the 1979 Local Government Act in the province rather than letting Karachi and Hyderabad function under the system introduced by the military regime in 2001. They believed it was meant only for the benefit of the MQM. Sindhis rose up in arms against the federal and provincial governments because they were concerned about the attempt being made to divide the province across ethnic lines.
As the PPP and the MQM are now engaged in negotiations to prevent the tipping point turning into a full-blown crisis, they can do themselves a great favour by agreeing to enforce the commissionerate system in the province, at least for the time being. This could then be followed by comprehensive consultations among all the political stakeholders to evolve a broad consensus on what sort of system should be imposed in Sindh.