Judge SPLGO realistically
Courtesy:- S Rahman
Lot of unjustified hue and cry about Sindh Peoples Local Government Ordinance (SPLGO) 2012 is being heard these days without anyone trying in earnest to evaluate the Ordinance on the yardstick of ground realities.
Of course, the problem is that we talk much of ground realities but in fact, we turn totally shallow while confronted with any special situation. Take, for example, SPLGO 2012. For most of the time, it is being interpreted by some wiseacres in the light of misconceptions that owe their existence to the own ‘wisdom’. The main theory that is now being propounded with exceptional naiveté is that the SPLGO is a device being used to keep certain political parties or politicians away from the system of local self-government.
Not at all, is the answer to this misconception. No such move is under way to oust some political parties or politicians from the system. Pakistan People’s Party, instead, possesses the track record of grand rapprochement and reconciliation which means doing things in complete harmony with all the political parties and stakeholders.
President Asif Ali Zardari, is rather an established champion of reconciliation and it is by dint of this altruistic approach that the PPP has been able to steer the country out of severe mess and confusion that have, for most of the time, revolved around constitutional lacunae and controversial questions of provincial autonomy etc.
The policy of reconciliation helped a lot in putting an end to this confusion as was evidenced during thorough deliberations on constitutional amendments and 7th NFC Award. Honestly speaking, these two accomplishments on the part of political forces, under inspiration from the PPP leadership’s policy of reconciliation, dealt a big blow to undemocratic forces and autocratic mindset. As such, while all the political stakeholders deserve to be commended for these achievements, the PPP leadership, in particular, ought to be congratulated for exercising patience throughout these processes and laying the foundation of strong, consensus and sustainable democracy. Even in the case of appointment of an impartial Chief Election Commissioner, the PPP-led government has won laurels from all over the country. The theme that is intended to be elaborated at this juncture is that a government that aims at bringing about grand national reconciliation, swallowing even the bitterest pills in the shape of Opposition’s negative machinations, just can’t be expected to indulge in a divisive act that carries the potential of creating schisms on the political landscape on the national scene as well as in Sindh.
One wonders as to how PML-N chief, Mian Nawaz Sharif, terms SLGPO 2012 an act of division of Sindh. PPP Sindh Minister Sharjeel Memon has given quite a calculated observation on this matter. Memon says that Mian Nawaz Sharif has not bothered to study the Ordinance in depth.
This is not a wrong observation. Studying the matters in depth now seems to have ceased to be of any concern — and priority — to the PML-N top leader ever since he has embarked on the journey of the PPP’s overthrow through different techniques. And that is perhaps the cause of superficial statements given off and on by our politicians including Mian Nawaz Sharif. The fact is that the people’s government of Sindh has been able to finalize the SPLGO 2012 draft after consultations with their allied parties in the province and now PML-N leaders ought to be reminded that after the passage of 18th constitutional amendment‚ the matter of LBelections has been transferred to provinces. It is now an exclusively provincial issue.
The PML-N, having minimal (some say, nominal) public representation in the Sindh provincial assembly, has no moral authority to challenge the wisdom of political stakeholders running the show in Sindh with the support of public mandate (and thus, public wisdom). What is suited to Punjab may not be suitable to the same degree to the province of Sindh. This ground reality must always be kept in mind before hurling critical remarks that are otherwise meant only to paint the federal government and its federal and Sindh ally, MQM, in bad light.
According to the draft, the new system will be functional in five districts of the province that include Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Larkana and Mirpur Khas while remaining parts of the province will have district councils.
Besides that, mayors and deputy mayors would head the metropolitan corporations and chairmen and deputy chairmen would tend to the affairs of district governments. And chief metropolitan officers will also be appointed who will share the powers with commissioners in the metropolitan city, while commissioners and deputy commissioners would continue looking after the revenue and law and order situation.
At this stage, it is necessary to clarify one important point. Contrary to the confusion being created by way of ignorance or by design by the critics of SLGPO 2012, policing will be done exclusively by the Police Department that would continue to look after the law and order problem, and side by side with revenue, health, building control authority and education, policing also happens to be a provincial subject. As such, police would remain under the Sindh government.
This dispels the wrong impression created by the PPP and MQM detractors who say the SLGPO would be used to acquire control over the police force that would be used to subdue political opponents or influence the voters. This is otherwise a misconception given the fact that voters are no more naïve and less-empowered people of the past. The awakening within the civil society has made them capable enough to fight any kind of exploitation and confusion.
The same is the case with commissioners and deputy commissioners who have nothing to do with local government system. They would only be looking after the Revenue Department.
Now we come again to the same crucial point that what is required to be understood in this entire situation is the ground situation or what we usually call ground realities. The ground realities as they prevail in Sindh are primarily and essentially the domain of public representatives of Sindh province who are sitting in the assemblies on the edifice of public mandate. They are the best judge of local situations and exigencies. In order to strengthen and promote democracy, these public representatives must be allowed some breathing space, to carry on with their democratic mission with commitment.