Polls delayed due to MQM-P’s reservations, says Sharjeel Memon
Sindh Information Minister Sarjeel Memon said early Friday that the provincial government had decided to delay local elections in Karachi, Hyderabad and Dadu, with opposition parties strongly condemning the decision.
Addressing a press conference, the information minister said the decision was taken after the Sindh government withdrew the notification regarding delimitation of constituencies in Karachi as the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) has reservations about it.
“They (MQM-P) are our allies in the federal government and we take the concerns of our allies very seriously,” the minister said, ruling out that the decision was taken under pressure.
The development comes after the provincial cabinet, chaired by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, held a late-night meeting after the MQM-P threatened not to allow the local elections to be held.
The second round of LG elections was scheduled to be held on July 24 last year, but the Sindh government was excused from holding the elections due to lack of security and police presence due to the floods. Later, the election was also postponed to August 28 and October 23, and later today it was announced for January 15 — for the fourth time.
As the “rebranded” MQM-P factions came together earlier today, party secretary Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui had also warned that if their reservations over the local polls were not addressed, then they would “fight for our rights”.
Speaking to the press later, the Information Minister noted that despite polling delays in the three districts, elections will be held as scheduled in Tando Allahyar, Badin, Sujawal, Thatta, Tando Muhammad Khan, Matiari, Jamshoro.
“Sindh government is ready to conduct polls in these districts and people in them should prepare for the elections. There will be no delay in elections in these constituencies,” Memon said.
Defending the decision not to hold polls, there was a shortage of police personnel to be deployed at the polling stations, while the army, through the General Headquarters (GHQ), had also been justified — given the border situation and militancy.
For the representatives who have already been elected in the first phase and will be elected in the second phase, the information minister said the Sindh cabinet will meet again tomorrow at 11 am to decide when the swearing-in ceremony will be held for them.
Responding to a question that a similar situation took place during the recently postponed local elections in Islamabad, Memon said, “The Election Commission has its rules and so do the honorable courts and we will also have to see what they will decide.”
The Information Minister, defending the decision to delay the polls two days before they were due, said the government cannot decide as the issues are sub judice and institutions are hearing cases in this regard.
“Also, MQM-P was our ally and they are still our allies in the federal government, so definitely, when they have their grievances, we will try to facilitate them at our level,” Memon said.
Soon after the announcement, a delegation of MQM-P arrived at the Prime Minister’s House to thank the Sindh government for following the party’s request to delay the local elections.
The MQM-P delegation was led by Farooq Sattar and included Wasim Akhtar, Faisal Subazwari and Mustafa Kamal. Meanwhile, Sindh Local Government Minister Nasir Hussain Shah, Sindh Food Minister Mukesh Kumar Chawla, Provincial Minister Taimur Talpur and Sindh Government Spokesperson Murtaza Wahab were also present.
PTI, JI slam decision
In response, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) decided to resist the provincial government’s decision to postpone the elections and said the party would challenge the delay in the courts.
In a statement, Leader of the Opposition in the Sindh Assembly Adil Sheikh said the MQM-P had worked as a pressure group on the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) “subjugation group”. Both parties — MQM and PPP — are two sides of the same coin, he said.
Sheikh disparaged PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari without naming him and said, “Sindh’s biggest ailment and money lover left Karachi after having to lick the dust in Punjab.” He called on Zardari to quit politics admitting moral and political defeat.
The PTI leader claimed that the people of Karachi have identified the “mercenaries and killers” of Muhajirs and Sindhis. Sheikh said that the provincial government took the decision to delay the polls as the Pakistan Democratic Movement (PDM) was quite scared of the impending defeat in Karachi and Hyderabad.
A single person – PTI chairman Imran Khan – has exposed the entire system in front of the masses, he alleged. The PTI leader said that those who talk about democracy are afraid of people’s democratic rights.
He added that the idea of going public irked the two parties — the MQM-P and the PPP. Sheikh said the plan to capture the city through the Prime Minister’s House, Bilawal House and the Governor had “failed”.
JI Karachi spokesperson Zahid Askari, speaking to Geo.tv over phone, said the party will protest the “anti-Karachi decision” as there are no moral and legal grounds for postponing the elections.
The party will explore every constitutional, legal and democratic avenue to counter the Sindh government’s decision, the spokesperson noted.
Further, the Sindh High Court (SHC) rejected the MQM-P’s petition, he said. The JI spokesperson argued that Karachi could not get back on track without holding the local elections.
He said the provincial government’s decision is meant to benefit the MQM-P, especially after their reunification. However, the citizens of Karachi have recognized the faces of these people, Askari said.
MQM-P could not perform despite having a run with municipal institutions for 35 years and they would not be able to perform in future, he said.
PPP is making efforts to help MQM-P get elected, he claimed. The JI spokesperson alleged that the two parties were colluding but had issued statements against each other.
The court and the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) ruled in favor of holding LG elections. “Therefore, the provincial government’s decision to postpone the polls is against democracy and the law and in defiance of the verdict of the court and the ECP,” he said.