The passage of the Sindh Peoples Local Government Ordinance (SPLGO) by the Sindh Assembly was significant enough for the heads of parties in the Sindh coalition, the PPP and the MQM, to not only engage in mutual congratulations, but to consider converting the coalition into an electoral alliance. This makes it all the more necessary to consider why the Jeay Sindh Qaumi Mahaz (JSQM) should issue a strike call leading to the death of one protester and a shutdown of business all over the province. The MQM considered the SPLGO important enough to make its passage a condition of its remaining in the coalition, even though it had already been promulgated. The promulgation itself had been met by the withdrawal from the coalition of the PML-F, the PML-Q, the ANP and the NPP, which means that JSQM was not isolated in its strike call. These parties supported the strike and their legislators tore copies of the legislation and staged a sit-in in front of the Speaker’s rostrum, calling the SPLGO a ‘black law’. PML-F parliamentary party leader Jam Madad Ali said the Ordinance represented a division of the province.

Though the SPLGO allows elections to local councils to be held, it puts the province out of step with the rest of the country, and not just the protest in the Assembly but JSQM’s going so far as to sacrifice one of its workers in Nawabshah, the President’s home district, showed that the opposition was because the ordinance gives the MQM control of those areas of the province it liked, including over the police and revenue departments. It is also unhelpful that the senior partner in the coalition, the PPP, had targeted the Punjab for division, while another partner, the PML-Q was supporting the demand for the splitting of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. The MQM should have been aware that its push for more local council powers would be seen in this context, especially after it was linked to an old demand for a Muhajir province.

One of the more disturbing aspects of the SPLGO was how it was passed, without debate or reference to the relevant standing committee. However, this was perhaps inevitable, given that the MQM had made not just promulgation, but passage as well a condition. Considering how the entire country is disturbed, the PPP cannot afford any more of the disturbances that Sindh witnessed as a consequence. It can ill afford JSQM raising its voice in connection with the death in Nawabshah, especially when it is remembered that Monday’s protest was not just against the SPLGO, but also the delay in the investigation of the death of JSQM Chairman Bashir Qureshi. Sindh should not end up a stand-out among the provinces just to satisfy a minority in that province. The example Sindh has set is not being followed by the other provinces, which indicates that the SPLGO is indeed fissiparous. Since gubernatorial assent cannot be refused, a repealing ordinance is needed.