Since the PTI has come into power taking MQM-Pakistan as coalition partners in the Federal Government, there has been a steady rise in the livid mantra of one ethnic group for a separate province in Sindh based on ‘40% Evacuee Sindh’ – a dystopian, self contradictory and ludicrous proposition which only a sick mind can conceive of. The evacuee properties both agriculture lands (550,000 acres) and urban houses left behind by the migrating non-Muslims throughout the province were allotted to the refugees from India under the Sindh Evacuee Scheme which remained in force for many long years. The MQM leaders have been nauseatingly harping on this mantra from the early 1980s when they propounded the equally dystopian Mohajir nationalism.
Historically, Sindh has been a compact and indivisible geographical entity. Karachi witnessed rapid development during the British colonial era as the capital and the port city of the province. The city owed its infrastructural development and transformation as the hub of trade, political and literary activities, higher education and overall beauty to its elected Mayors and philanthropists and British officials. It was genuinely called ‘jewel in the British crown’ with a multi-cultural, manageable and overwhelmingly Sindhi population of 400,000 in 1947.
Within the next four years, the rulers unwisely inducted over 600,000 migrants into Karachi. The induction of alien population into the city continued unabated, though unobtrusively, in the subsequent years when it was declared a federal entity to the strong protestations of Sindhi leaders in 1948, creating an ever worsening imbalance among the multiple ethnic groups living in the Metropolis. This resulted in immense pressure on the civic infrastructure, healthcare services and educational facilities of the city.
The city was effectively under the mayoral control of the Jamaat Islami and the MQM since the local bodies elections held by dictator Zia in 1985 until recently with Abdul Sattar Afghani, Advocate Niamatullah of Jamaat Islami, and Farooq Sattar (two terms) and Syed Mustafa Kamal of MQM. The current Mayor, Waseem Akhtar also belongs to MQM. This party also held political sway over the city taking all its national and provincial constituencies. It enjoyed power and pelf in the federal and provincial governments as coalition partners of PPP and other mainstream parties since 1988. How they treated the city and its population when in power has not yet faded away from our memory.
The controversy between the provincial administration and the Mayor over the local council services and financial allocations turned into an ear splitting rant and a nauseating wave of accusations and counter accusations when the Federal Minister Ali Zaidi positioned himself as the self styled savior to rid the city of the choked and overflowing gutters, stinking heaps of garbage and remainders of the sacrificial animals thrown on roads and side lanes by the pious Muslims.
The controversy has now acquired a disturbing dimension. The Prime Minister constituted a strategic committee with his Federal Minister for Law, Farogh Nasim in the chair to make short, medium and long term suggestions for addressing the woes of Karachi which were totally sidetracked amid this raging controversy. The statement of the chairman of the committee after its maiden meeting on 11 September was too disquieting for the conscious people of Sindh. The Minister hinted at the invocation of the constitutional clause 149 (4) to bring the city under the federal writ to address its chronic problems.
The Constitutional clause 149 (4) empowers the federal executive authority to give direction to the provincial executive to exercise his authority in a manner as to serve the purpose of preventing any grave menace to the peace and tranquility or economic life of Pakistan or any part thereof. Let us be honest to ourselves as citizens of this country, has the provincial chief executive, in exercise of his authority, ever shirked from preventing a menace to peace and tranquility or the economic life of the country. In the recent past, when the city was kept on tenterhooks plunging it into lockdowns by young motorcyclists firing pistol shots in air or pushing it into bloodletting by an ethnic group, nobody talked of the invocation of clause 149 (4).
What Sindhis feel is that the federal government of PTI, notwithstanding its repeated lip service to the geographical oneness of Sindh, has come to terms with its coalition partners of MQM-Pakistan to declare Karachi as a federal entity in the first instance and convert it into a separate administrative unit later. This would be too serious a move to be tolerated by Sindhis. To them, this would be tantamount to severing the head of their province.
This would take the province back to the chaos that ensued when the city was taken over by the federal government in 1948. Sindh was up in arms with political leaders, political workers, local councils, social organizations, intellectual circles, professors and students swelling the protests. The protests continued throughout the years of One-Unit to 1969 when the provinces of West Pakistan were restored. Mind it gentlemen, this time the protests will be stronger in scope and intensity. The Sindhis today are not akin to the simple and docile populace of 1948. Political wisdom counsels to void stirring the hornet’s nest at a time when the nation needs to be galvanized to face the looming internal and external threats.
It is a bitter fact that the three consecutive PPP administrations have been mired in corruption, incompetence and misgovernance in the province and have utterly failed to deliver. Not only Karachi but almost all the towns of the province have endured their neglect and misrule in terms of sanitation and infrastructure. By taking over Karachi, the federal government would actually be extending a new lease of life to these thugs. While the decision would be politically wrong and legally untenable, it would trigger a tussle between the federal and the provincial governments weakening the federation.
I deem it appropriate to warn PTI that any decision aimed at the geographical integrity of Sindh would turn the party leadership into a bet-noire in the province forever, and nobody would dare take the name of PTI in Sindh. Muhammad Ayub Khuhro, the iron man of Sindh, never recovered from the stigma of ‘traitor of Sindh’ which he earned in Sindh by bulldozing the One-Unit resolution in the Assembly in 1954. Even his children suffered political humiliation because of this label. Sindhis have an elephant’s memory. They never forgive the enemy of their land.
The Prime Minister – so eager to address the chronic problems of Karachi = may consider reconstituting the strategic committee with three nominees each of federal and provincial governments to oversee the allocation of funds and the development works to be carried out by the Mayor and the Chairmen of Municipal Committees and District Councils. The committee may also make short and long term suggestions including the rightsizing of Municipal Committees in the city as most of them have over 5000 to 10000 employees – many of them being ghost – appointed by the former mayors. He should, however, beware of conspirators who, in order to serve their nefarious designs, would not desist from taking him on joyride into cloud-cuckoo-land and maligning his name and reputation.
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