KARACHI  - Pakistan Peoples Party had made many high-sounding promises five years ago in its manifesto for the 2013 general elections, and a review of their performance shows that the party failed to honour most of the commitments

To name a few, it had promised devolution of powers to local government, formidable role for youth in policy formation, restoration of student unions, safeguarding minorities’ rights, raising voice for missing persons and ensuring freedom of expression and right to information.

As the party, which has ruled Sindh for long, is now set to announce its manifesto for the upcoming election scheduled to be held on July 25, 2018, here is a review of its performance.

Devolution of LG powers

When the PPP came to power in Sindh in May 2013, there was no local bodies system in the province, however, the party had announced in its manifesto to devolve power to the local bodies.

The manifesto stated that governance cannot be effective unless it is responsive to people’s needs, and local government is essential for responding quickly and efficiently to the immediate and basic needs of the population.

The PPP claims credit for getting 18th amendment approved from Parliament with unanimous vote - as a result of which way was paved for devolution of political, administrative and financial responsibility and authority to the elected representatives of the local government.

The local government elections in the province were held in two different phases in December 2015 and the representatives took power early in the 2016, however, since then the PPP that believes in the devolving of powers at the grass roots level- that is union council- has not formed a provincial finance commission which finalises shares of the local governments in the province.

Although the PPP-led Sindh government claims that it had transferred massive funds to Karachi mayor for development and also empowered him to do development works, CM Murad Ali Shah or his predecessor did not announce the provincial finance commission.

The incumbent chief minister said during his last post-budget presentation that he could not ensure required funds for the local governments unless a due share is announced for the province under new NFC award.

Speaking on the subject, MQM-Pakistan Coordination Committee member Aminul Haq said that ‘Hathi k daant khany k aur, dikhanay k aur’, alleging the ruling party of duplicity. He said when the PPP calls for complete autonomy under 18th amendment then why it is hesitant in giving the powers to local government representatives under it. “Article 140 calls for autonomy of local government but in Sindh even the solid waste management board is being run by the chief minister,” he pointed out.

Youth

PPP manifesto emphasised on the need for streamlining the youth and giving them key role in policy making as more than 60 percent of the Pakistan population comprises young people.

To ensure their active participation in policy making, the party agenda included formation of youth councils at provincial and district levels as well as a youth parliament at provincial levels, elected through local youth councils. But promises remained mere promises on this count too.

A youth policy was prepared by the former Sports and Youth Affairs Minister Faisal Subzwari in the province in 2012 but the PPP raised its objections on some of its features and sent it back to the ministry concerned for re-evaluation. Then the process of re-formation of the policy to its approval from the provincial cabinet took five long years.

On April 16, 2018 the provincial cabinet approved the youth policy in the province with its main highlights including establishment of a youth development commission; district structure of youth affairs department; centralised information system on youth development and job database; formation of job bank; establishment of Institute Placement Bureaus through IT interface; establishment of youth venture capital fund.

The policy also included holding of annual innovation competitions and formation of small incubation centres at the universities; entrepreneurship training at universities by private sector and crash programme of technical education; devising models of elected student councils and exposure trips; reactivation of students union; reactivation of boys and girls guides at school; and establishment of artisan support programme.

Although a policy had been approved at the end of the outgoing term but only time would tell if it is ever implemented in letter and spirit in case the party gains another chance to govern – which is quite likely.

Minorities

PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto has raised voice for the rights of minorities on several occasions but on the implementation side, the Sindh government led by his party has badly failed to deliver on it. It has even not implemented his announced plans.

The party chairman had announced to provide proper security to the religious minorities and on his directions the provincial government prepared a project to install CCTV cameras at the worship places of minorities across the province. However, despite its inclusion in budget for two years since 2016, this Rs400 million project has not been started on ground.

The provincial government allocated an amount of Rs200 million for the project in 2017-18 but the next year (2018-19) it cut the allocation down to Rs50 million.

A similar situation is also seen for another project for minorities which pertains to construction and renovation of their worship places. The PPP claimed credit of passing a bill Criminal Law (Protection of Minorities) Bill from the provincial assembly in November 2016 aimed at halting the forced conversion of people, especially young girls.

However, the bill was returned by Sindh Governor Saeeduz Zamn Siddiqui for some amendments in it. The government announced making the amendments however, despite a lapse of around 18 months, it has failed to bring the amended draft to the assembly for approval.

PML-F Lawmaker Nand Kumar told The Nation that he had reminded the PPP Parliamentary Minister to bring the bill in the assembly again but the PPP is under pressure from Muslim parties and groups who are opposing the legislation.

“We are not against someone’s changing his religion but it should be ensured that it is not done by force,” he said. He further said that during the PPP tenure the incidents of kidnapping for ransom and killing of Hindus in Tharparkar district had increased, and recently two brothers were killed in Umerkot.

Enforced disappearances

and missing persons

PPP in its manifesto had called for bringing those involved in such crimes to justice and also provide relief to the affected families.

Bilawal reiterated support for the missing persons and victims of enforced disappearances on various occasions but the party did nothing on ground. Ironically, the PPP-led government itself is blamed for most of the extra-judicial killings and enforced disappearances in the province.

According to details of the commission of inquiry on enforced disappearances led by Justice (r) Javed Iqbal, a total of 1,330 cases were reported to the commission from Sindh, of which 836 people were traced while 225 are still missing. The figures are the second highest after the insurgency-hit KPK province.

The MQM-P, the second largest party of the province, claims that 130 of its members are victim of enforced disappearances and petitions for their release are pending in courts.

“No one from PPP has even approached us to resolve these issues despite the fact that as leaders of the province they are responsible for the safety of the citizens,” said an MQM-P leader.

Freedom of expression and

right to information

Right to information bill was passed by the provincial assembly on March 13, 2017 but the party is yet to make rules for the bill for its proper implementation. It has also failed to form a RTI body under this law aimed at addressing the complaints for refusing information under this law.

The new manifesto

Farhat Ullah Babar who is part of PPP Manifesto Committee for 2018 told this scribe that the committee has finalised its recommendations for the party manifesto for 2018 election and it would soon be announced by PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari.

He said that they had considered the shortcomings on the implementation side of the past manifesto and expressed the hope they would be able to remove them in their next tenure.

“The party has made [some] new promises in the manifesto along with those that were [made earlier but could] not [be] fulfilled during the past tenure,” he said.

The PPP leader, however, refused to comment on the performance of the provincial government.

Repeated attempts were made to approach Sindh Minister for Information Nasir Hussain Shah, and Minister for Planning and Development Saeed Ghani for comments on failure of the Sindh government to implement their manifesto but none of them responded to the calls.