KARACHI - Despite the claims of ministers from the ruling PPP about having reached a consensus on a new governance system for Sindh, an agreement over the contentious issue of powers of local governments is nowhere until now, it has been learnt.

Nevertheless, the PPP and its ally (the MQM) have sorted out the differences over the nomenclature of the new local government system, under which the posts of nazims for elected representatives and DCOs for bureaucrats – as introduced during the regime of former president Pervez Musharraf – would be quashed. According to PPP leaders, the new LG system would be an amalgam of the laws introduced by the governments of despots Ziaul Haq and Musharraf in 1979 and 2001, respectively.  Sindh Minister for Local Government Department Agha Siraj Durrani and Law Minister Muhammad Ayaz Soomro recently claimed that their party and its allies had achieved nearly 80 per cent consensus on the draft law of a new governance system for Sindh.

Casting doubts over their claims, informed sources, however, asserted that except developing agreement on certain issues, including the nomenclature of new governance system, the coalition partners could not make any major progress, although they had been working over the matter for the past four years.

Moreover, the PPP and MQM core committees are likely to resume the talks process to discuss clause-to-clause draft of the new law and proposals of either side.  According to sources in the PPP, under the new system, elected districts heads would hold the posts of lord mayors in Karachi, mayor in Hyderabad, and district chairmen for the for remaining Sindh districts. 

The sources said the two sides have also developed consensus that the commissionerate system would continue in the new law, but the administrative authority would rest with the elected lord mayor and mayor of the district in Karachi and Hyderabad; while elected as chairmen, public representatives would run the district councils affairs in the rest of the districts.

Meanwhile, a senior official of the Local Government Department told The Nation that the number of towns would likely to be enhanced to 26 in Karachi against the earlier number of 18, which were abolished after expiration of the 2001 local government ordinance in the province, adding that the posts of the commissioners would continue in the new law.

However, the PPP and MQM are yet to develop a consensus on powers of local bodies/district governments as they differ from each other’s views in this respect.

In its proposals, the MQM seeks more administrative powers for local governments in the new system, while the ruling PPP opposes it, suggesting instead only municipal services for local bodies/district governments. Talking to The Nation, a provincial minister of the PPP, while opposing the devolution of police, revenue, education and other provincial departments, said that the forged documents were made by the previous district governments that caused increase in land-grabbing in Karachi and other parts of the province, besides school education got worsened.

Independent analysts were of the view that against the backdrop of the negotiations and support for the election of Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Asharraf, it is highly likely that President Asif Ali Zardari directs his party’s Sindh leaders to accept the demands of the MQM regarding the devolution of police, revenue and other departments to the district governments. Sindh Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah meanwhile told the media in Sukkur that if local government elections held at this stage, it might cause a delay in the schedule of the next general elections.