Jamaat-i-Islami steps in

Jamaat-i-Islami steps in

Synopsis

Jamaat’s workers take to the streets protesting against Sindh’s LG law

Jamaat-i-Islami steps in

athar khan/Bol News

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KARACHI: A large number of women, along with children, sit on a carpet in front of the Sindh Assembly building. They have been protesting here for three weeks during the cold winter days. Supporters of the Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), they have been protesting against the recently passed local government law in Sindh.

Bol News reached out to the protesters to know why they have been vociferously demonstrating against what they call a ‘black law.’

Maryam, a front-row demonstrator, said that she had been coming to the venue every day from the SITE area. “I come here with my son and leave my other child with his grandmother at home. I do not know what black law is but I know that the future of my children is definitely black,” she observes.

A better future for her children was her motive to protest in such harsh weather.

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Background of protest

The JI wants the Sindh Local Government (Amendment) Act withdrawn, claiming it is against the spirit of Article 140-A of the Constitution.

The party has called the law contradictory to the principle of democracy. Among several other demands, the JI also seeks holding of a ‘true’ census for Karachi, claiming that the actual population of the metropolis is more than 30 million and that all civic departments must be connected with one unified system under an empowered mayor.

It should be remembered that JI has played a significant role in Karachi’s politics. During the Pervez Musharraf-era, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) boycotted the local bodies elections in 2001, paving the way for JI’s Niamatullah Khan to become city nazim, as the mayor’s office was known under that system.

Karachi ignored

Many observers feel that in the current tenure, Karachi has been completely ignored by all political parties including the Pakistan Peoples Party-led Sindh government as well as the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, which secured 14 National Assembly seats from the city in the 2018 general elections.

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Many in the metropolis are disappointed that the PTI has not delivered anything and angry at being ignored by the PPP. In such a situation, JI seems to be trying to fill up this political vacuum and its struggle against the LG law seems to be part of that effort. Women protesters from Gulshan-e-Bihar, Orangi Town were of the view that Karachi has become a hotbed of problems. There is no water in the houses, no electricity and no gas for cooking.

Crushed by inflation

Shaheen Iqbal, another protester, raised the issue of water and electricity and said, “In times of high inflation, we even have to buy water which is a basic necessity of life. We have no other choice but to pay Rs5,000 per month to avail two tankers of water. A house we are living in is rented at Rs8,000 and we pay as high as Rs5,000 just for water. Other utilities’ expenses are [additional]”.

She was also critical of the role political parties play. “The MQM workers have taken charge of a few streets while the other four streets are under the influence of PPP. They charge money to provide us with water.”

Speaking at the protest, another woman said that in the past, children were educated in government schools, but now the Sindh government is closing down schools as well. “There is no good school left for children of poor people. We are left with no choice but to come on the streets. We have been coming in rain and chilly weather just to make sure that our rights are not curbed.”

Moreover, protesters from a cross section of society have been observed at the demonstration outside the Sindh Assembly. These include those who work 9 to 5 every day as well as housewives, teachers and students. Qandeel Shaukat, a student who has recently obtained admission to the University of Karachi, expressed her grief and shared that she had to go through a nightmare every day just to reach her varsity. “There are not enough points for the university’s transport service and we have to spend a lot of money on bus fares. In the metropolitan city, we do not have a mass transit [system].”

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Lost trust?

JI’s Karachi chief Hafiz Naeemur Rehman is of the view that Sindh Assembly has a ‘friendly opposition’, reportedly similar to that of the federal government. “The MQM and the PTI collectively have 52 seats in the assembly but their role as opposition has no impact on the lives of ordinary citizens. The people of Karachi no longer trust any of the political parties but JI.”

He added that he does not want JI’s reputation to get affected by joining hands with so-called opponents of the Sindh government. “It’s quite obvious from their stance that JI is up for the paradigm shift in the upcoming local bodies elections and, ultimately, the general elections.”

The problems discussed by the people protesting against the LG law are related to the overall improvement of the system

Ideally, Karachi needs 1.1 billion gallons daily to supply water to roughly 20 million residents. Instead, it is only able to get 550 MGD. Half of the population is deprived of water. Around 75 per cent of residential areas are badly affected by gas loadshedding.

In a recent study titled ‘The Missing Third — An out-of-school study of Pakistan’s 5-16 year-olds’, it was revealed that in Karachi region, Malir District has 38pc out-of-school children (OOSC) while District West has 30pc OOSC and District Korangi has 23pc OOSC. In District East and District South, 22pc of children do not attend school. Only five state-owned hospitals were available for a population of 30m people in one of the world’s largest cities.

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A large segment of Karachi’s population is deprived of the basic needs of life. Political parties, therefore, must ponder over these issues in order to understand why people have taken to the streets against an unfair system.

 

 

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