Concessions galore

Flying in the face of criticism from Sindhi nationalists and the Awami National Party (ANP), the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has once again restored the 2001 local government (LG) system in Sindh. Previously, the government had restored the 2001 LG system only in Karachi and Hyderabad in order to appease the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). This step greatly annoyed the ANP, Sindhi nationalists and also the PPP’s own Sindhi base, which protested against the imposition of two different systems in one province. The ANP and Sindhi nationalists were visibly angry at the government’s decision to restore the status quo ante. This is not to say that they were enamoured of the colonial commissionerate system but the re-demarcation of Sindh carried out under Musharraf to advantage the MQM was certainly not something they wanted restored. While Karachi may be a stronghold of the MQM, the PPP has a stake in the city and so does the ANP. As for Hyderabad, it is a mix of Urdu-speaking people and Sindhis. The Sindhis do not want Hyderabad to be left at the mercy of the MQM. The PPP has been giving concession after concession to please the MQM, which is known to flex its muscles every now and then to extract such ‘surrenders’.

A simple cost-benefit analysis of the PPP’s appeasement policy vis-à-vis MQM will show that it is not to the PPP’s advantage. There can be a possible political fallout of such steps. The PPP gave a false hope to its own constituency in Sindh by rolling back the 2001 LG system. Apparently, the PPP’s reversal decision was taken in the hope that it would restore peace in Karachi by mollifying the MQM. Unfortunately, even this step has not resulted in achieving the desired results. The killings in Karachi have not stopped. Even the Corps Commanders expressed “concern over the law and order situation in Karachi and its ramifications/implications for the national economy and expected that the measures recently undertaken by the government would help redress the situation”. The situation in Karachi will not come under control by mollycoddling the MQM. The need of the hour is to allow the police to launch a crackdown against all criminal gangs regardless of their political affiliations. This is no time to play politics. Too many innocent lives have been lost and continue to be under threat.

(my editorial in Daily Times)

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