SPLGO: This land is your land, this land is my land
As you may have heard by now, MQM and PPP have successfully managed to divide the province of Sindh along their power base lines. In a very smart move just before the elections, the PPP and MQM have hammered out a deal that will see Sindh get divided in a manner that benefits both parties.
Just to ensure that their opponents really do not do much damage, they have passed something called the Sindh Peoples Local Governance Ordinance (SPLGO) that creates five ‘metropolitan corporations’ in Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Mirpurkhas and Larkana districts. The rest of the districts in Sindh would have district councils. Metro corporations would have a mayor heading them and running the day to day affairs, while the councils are to have a chairperson in place that apparently has the same powers as the mayor.
Now before we go any further, it is crucial to understand how this regulation, SPLGO, will divide Sindh. The five metro corporations declared under the SPLGO hold 35 National Assembly (NA) seats while rest of Sindh holds 26 National Assembly seats. So the five metro corps hold more NA seats then rest of the 18 Districts of Sindh.
Out of the five metro corps, two of the largest ones, Karachi and Hyderabad, that make up one third of Sindh’s population with 26 NA seats, are MQM strongholds. The other three metro corps are PPP strongholds with nine NA seats.
So basically, what has happened in the case of Sindh is that the PPP and MQM have carved out their strongholds into separate entities called the ‘metropolitan corporations’.
According to both, the PPP and MQM, the SPLGO would be the best thing to happen. One is compelled to ask, then, why did they not simply make all districts into metropolitan corporations?
If you upgrade the status of an area, it normally helps that area grow further and makes the developmental activities there faster. So why not let the rest of Sindh enjoy the same benefits as the PPP/MQM strongholds?
Just a few months before the elections, the control of law enforcement is being handed over to contesting political parties. What kind of democracy is this?
If the police are under the control of MQM, do you think they would let ANP, PTI or PML-N do what they wish? In interior Sindh, where the law and order situation is already troubled, the police would now be under the PPP.
Even after drawing a clear line between the Sindh that ‘matters’ and the Sindh that does not, MQM and PPP are persistent that SPLGO can do wonders.
Have we reached a point where the glaring division in the status of districts is now something positive? Why are we allowing two political parties to divide Sindh while cutting out all other political stakeholders just so they can rule it forever? Fact of the matter is that PPP and MQM are vulnerable in Sindh. After years of bad governance in the province that has caused damage to property and lives, the two parties had no other option but to go for something as drastic as this.
The MQM has been having a tough time in Karachi due to the expanding influence of other parties like ANP and Sunni Tehreek. The ‘gang war’ has shown that MQM is slowly losing control; add to this the resurgence of the Jamaat-e-Islami as a serious player in Karachi politics, and you realise MQM is in a hot water.
No incumbent party likes to go in to elections while being in such a situation. They need the state machinery to work in their favour if they are to preserve their political numbers. For example, even though the MQM is a party of the provincial government, the party pretends to be helpless when it comes to the law and order situation in Karachi. Now with the SPLGO, MQM can use their prior excuse and have the security apparatus work under them, hence making their political life and electioneering much easier.
PPP has identical problems in the rest of Sindh. They have performed poorly and are desperate to hold on to their political majority. For that, they have done everything from literally handing out money to signing up new political alliances, but even they know that simply signing new partnerships is not going to be enough to win back the voters.
They opted for this arrangement because, firstly, it lets them take control of the areas which are traditional strongholds. So if everything goes wrong, they would still be able to maintain their core base areas. However, the reason why PPP agreed to this deal was mostly because they need the MQM. It was not because MQM helps them secure majority in the National Assembly, but because, honestly, everyone knows what happens when you do not include MQM in the government; Karachi suddenly catches fire.
It is safe to say that for PPP, the whole thing is a bit of self preservation and a little of political bending over.
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.