‘MQM wants power for Karachi mayor’

‘MQM wants power for Karachi mayor’

Synopsis

Federal Minister of Information & Technology, Syed Aminul Haque

‘MQM wants power for Karachi mayor’
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Federal Minister of Information & Technology Syed Aminul Haque, who is also the spokesperson of the MQM – a key ally of the PTI government – talks to Bol News on why the PPP appears reluctant to give powers to the local bodies and the alleged role of his own party in promoting the politics of ethnicity.

 

 

Q

The PPP is seen as one of the key democratic forces in the country. Why does it appear opposed to devolution of power or empowering the local governments in line with the 18th Amendment?

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Syed Aminul Haque: After the 18th Amendment, all the powers came to the chief minister, but unfortunately, they weren’t transferred onwards – to the grassroots level. The power in the hands of the chief minister should have been decentralized and transferred to district and town-level. By keeping all the authorities at the provincial level, they (the PPP) have opened floodgates of corruption and bestow favours and jobs to their cronies and followers rather than giving government jobs on merit.

 

 

Q

Why are all those issues which should have been resolved in the Assembly are being settled on the roads? The PPP says that the MQM gave no input the day the new local bodies bill was introduced?

SAH:  When a bill is brought in the assembly, it is referred to the Standing Committee. From there, it is presented to the assembly after discussion and debate. On the basis of its majority, the Sindh government bulldozes everything. This bill, too, was passed within a few minutes without any debate or discussion. Not only the MQM, but all the political parties in the province — be it the PTI, the PML-N, the JUI, the ANP or the Jamaat-e-Islami – they all opposed it.

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In addition, the MQM convened a meeting of all the trade unions and they rejected the Local Government Act of 221 as black law. We went even further and had a session with all the economic stakeholders of the city, including Pakistan Stock Exchange, Karachi Chamber of Commerce, Korangi Association of Trade Industry, North Karachi Association of Trade and Industry and Site Association of Industry. They, too, rejected the new local bodies law.

Q

MQM is often accused by its rivals of doing politics on corpses. The assassination of Bholu Kahazana in Tando Allahyar and death of Aslam in Karachi is being seen as giving political space to the MQM…?

SAH:  The MQM, after August 22 2016, is waging its political struggle within the ambit of the law and the constitution. The party stands for nonviolence and nonconfrontation. In Tando Allahyar, a senior MQM leader was martyred in an organised manner. The accused, who assassinated the MQM leader, has been caught by the police with a Kalashnikov. In Karachi, a MQM worker was martyred during the brutal police action. Not just men, but our women supporters were severely beaten-up by the police in front of the CM House. Our member of the provincial assembly was dragged on the streets… The eye of the camera showed it to the whole nation. The fact is that the MQM remains an oppressed party. Unarmed supporters of the MQM went to the CM House as a mark of protest against the local bodies’ law, which deprived Karachi of its due rights. These protesters should have been invited for talks, but they were persecuted. Despite this, the MQM remains committed to peace because we believe in waging peaceful political struggle.

 

Q
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But Police, quoting the medical report, say that Aslam died of a heart attack during treatment.

SAH:  We have released the video where Aslam could be seen in the procession approaching the CM house. His location shows he was present outside the CM House. Later on, the MQM leadership asked its workers to gather at the Karachi Press Club. He reached there, but the teargas shelling and baton charge were so intense that his condition deteriorated. He was brought from the press club to Karachi Institute of Heart Diseases. Heavy teargas shelling and maltreatment of protesters are the factors behind his death.

 

Q

What were the demands of the MQM rally?

 

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SAH:  Changes have been made in the Local Government Act 2013 under which many of the departments run by the city government were handed over to the provincial government. It means whatever little powers that were left with the local government were also snatched away this time.

The Karachi Water and Sewerage Board, the Karachi Development Authority, the Solid Waste Management, the Karachi Building Control Authority — all these institutions were under the mayor once upon a time. But gradually the Sindh government took over all these powers. The MQM demands that the mayor should have administrative and financial powers so that he can do something for the city. If there is rubbish in front of your house, then who will pick it up? Isn’t it the responsibility of the counselor? We demand that the amendments should be undone.

 

Q

In the past, political violence destroyed the peace of Karachi. On Thursday, there was a little glimpse of the old days as businesses were forced to shut down allegedly at gunpoint.

SAH:  MQM is the biggest stakeholder of the city. If its MNAs, MPAs and workers are tortured and beaten up, some reaction should be expected. Our supporters and voters are present in every area of the city. If shops in Malir, Orangi Town, Surjani Town, Liaquatabad, Nazimabad or Burns Road were shuttered in response to the barbarity outside the CM House, it was a natural reaction. However, the MQM leadership did not endorse the closure, and asked people to open their businesses as we stand committed to nonviolence.

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Q

There was again an element of narrow ethnic politics during the recent campaign against the controversial local bodies bill. Former mayor Waseem Akhter’s statement had caused a stir… Then, Afaq Ahmed of your dissident faction also made controversial remarks. Are we heading back to the 80s politics?

SAH:  The MQM rejects politics of ethnicity. There are Pashto, Punjabi and even Sindhi speaking people in the MQM’s Rabita Committee. The MQM Pakistan wants to bring all nationalities together. As far as Afaq Ahmed’s statement is concerned, the MQM not only rejects his statement, but also condemns it. Wasim Akhtar’s statement was shown out of context. He spoke against the feudal system, the use of words like “topi and ajrak” was inappropriate, but he was referring to Wadera-shahi. He spoke about the rights of the oppressed Sindhis, who are being exploited by the feudal lords.

 

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Do you think it was a mistake not to make Karachi a province during the Musharraf-era when the MQM was in the government?

SAH: If the powers of the third tier of government are given to the local government, then many problems will be solved. But the way people belonging to urban Sindh are being treated, the idea of the southern province of Sindh is gaining strength with each passing day. We support Hazara province, South Punjab province movement. Similarly, we are raising a voice for the creation of the southern province of Sindh. Look at the duplicity of Pakistan People’s Party; it supports the creation of South Punjab province and Hazara province, but stands opposed to the southern Sindh province.

 

Q

DIs there any serious move to unite all the MQM factions?

 

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SAH:  The MQM was the largest party in Karachi and stands at the same position even today. Our doors are open to all those who have left the MQM. We will welcome everyone. Farooq Sattar also visited the MQM center. Dr. Saghir Ahmed also came and Afaq Ahmed also contacted us. The MQM, being a big party, is very generous and wants to carry everyone along.

 

Q

Being a member of the federal cabinet, why don’t you raise the problems of Karachi and their possible solutions?

SAH: We have repeatedly asked the federal government to complete the green-line project, the K4 project and many others… and they have been taken over by it. Throughout Pakistan’s history, census used to be conducted after 17 to 18 years, but for the first time this exercise is being carried out after a gap of just five years. We will ensure that 2023 elections are conducted based on the results of the 2022 census.

 

Q

 

Who should citizens of Karachi go to for the solution of their problems?

SAH: The PTI did win 14 seats in the last elections, but polling results show that the MQM has been defeated on five seats by a margin of just 300 to 3,000 votes. Kicking my polling agent out of the polling station and announcing results of Karachi 36 hours after the polling had ended raises eyebrows. Even today, if transparent and free elections are held, then the MQM will emerge as the largest party in Karachi. In the Sindh Cantonment Board elections, everyone saw that the MQM was the second largest party in the province with 17 seats.

 

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Does this mean that MQM is in a position to win the local body elections?

SAH:  Two weeks ago, the MQM won the election of KPT — the largest industrial body in Karachi. People from different areas of the city, including Surjani Town, Orangi Town, Federal B Area, Landhi, Korangi, Malir Shah Faisal work at the KPT and majority of them voted for the MQM… Whenever there is a local government election, only kites will be recovered from the ballot box.

 

Q

Your biggest rival in Karachi is the PTI, but at the center you are their ally. What strategy will you use to fight the next election?

SAH: Look at the election history of the MQM. It has participated in seven general elections. MQM has always contested elections only on the kite mark. But seat adjustments can be made with any party.

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