ISLAMABAD - A former boss of the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) has smelled a rat in the ruling coalition’s move to introduce local government ordinance in Sindh ahead of the general elections, terming the same tantamount to dividing the province.

The signing of the Sindh People’s Local Government Ordinance (SPLGO) 2012 by the Governor Sindh Ishratul Ebad has not only taken the Sindh’s political scene by storm, a renowned electoral expert also senses foul play in the government’s motives to move for the local bodies elections in Sindh under questionable circumstances.

“This development will have negative consequences for Sindh and for the entire country. The introduction of the local government ordinance in a highly controversial manner would draw a line of demarcation between the Sindhis and non-Sindhis. It’s tantamount to dividing Sindh,” Kanwar Dilshad, former Secretary Election Commission of Pakistan, told TheNation.

The said ordinance envisages establishing district councils in the Sindh’s 18 districts and introduction of metropolitan corporations in the five districts — Karachi, Hyderabad, Sukkur, Mirpurkhas and Larkana. “This is just a give-and-take agreement between two parties for power-sharing in Sindh out of vested interests. The opposition parties and even the coalition partners have rejected this move,” Dilshad commented on the agreement between Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) on the local government ordinance.

Sindh’s provincial ministers from Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) and Awami National Party (ANP) have stepped down to protest against the signed ordinance.

Kanwar Dilshad said, the ordinance’s arrival, just a few months ahead of the general elections, reflected a ‘malafide’ intention on the part of ruling brass. “In constitutional language, this becomes a clear case of malafide motives. Why did the ruling elites not bother to hold local government polls in the last four-and-half years? Why now? This is done to oblige MQM and influence general polls using the local government machinery.

The opposition parties and even the coalition partners in Sindh are protesting against this ordinance. This will gave valid grounds for the caretaker government to declare this order null-and-void once this government’s tenure is over,” the ex-secretary ECP said recalling former dictator General Yahya’s 1970 decision to nullify the Basic Democracy System introduced by the Field Martial Ayub Khan. “There were some 40,000 elected representatives each in East and West Pakistan, all of them became dysfunctional after been nullified by Yahya. The same might happen again.”

Recalling another instance, Dilshad said, the slain PPP leader Benazir Bhutto had demanded of making the local bodies dysfunctional ahead of 2008 general polls. Entertaining her request, the ECP had made the then local bodies system dysfunctional across Pakistan till the conduct of general elections. “Those local bodies were elected in the year 2005, well before the 2008 polls. Even then they were made dysfunctional to avoid local governments interference during the general elections. Why has the government suddenly waken up to holding local government polls through a highly controversial ordinance when just a few months remain in this parliament’s tenure?” the electoral expert asked arguing that the Sindh‘s local government ordinance could be challenged in the Supreme Court through a constitutional petition.

Unlike the general polls, Dilshad argued, the constituencies’ delimitations are essential for local bodies elections, to be done by the respective provincial governments. “The delimitations can only be done after carrying out the population census which has not been done by the federal government. The provincial governments have to introduce Local Government Act and delimit constituencies before the LB polls. Following this, the provincial governments have to request the ECP for conducting local bodies polls. The ECP has no role in constituencies delimitations in the local government system,” the former secretary said adding, with exception to Balochistan Assembly, the remaining three provincial assemblies have not passed the Local Government Act. “How could the LB polls be held when the basic requirements are not fulfilled? There are 75,00 union councils across Pakistan whose related constituencies have to be delimited if local government elections are to be held. And this cannot be done just ahead of general polls.”