What’s wrong with the Sindh governments?
The induction of the new Sindh government is now complete, hopefully. By any standard a large cabinet was sworn in to aid the new and young Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah who has replaced the octogenarian man for all seasons Qaim Ali Shah. Stanford educated Murad Ali Shah is 30 years younger than his predecessor. These two personal qualities have raised the hope that being younger he may provide energetic leadership to the province and as a foreign qualified person the governance would be more structured than before.
But there are also doubts that as long shadows of the unholy Trinity — the father, the son and the sister – are lurking on the Sindh government thus only a cosmetic change should be expected in spite of the vigour shown by the new Chief Minister in his first few days. That is one of the main misfortunes of Sindh since the inception of the country.
Let’s peep back in the history of Sindh to understand why the provincial governments have been ineffective in the province which has suffered immensely. Of the 69 years of Pakistan’s age the provincial government had existed only for 34 years. In these 34 years Sindh has had 21 governments — meaning they survived at an average around 1 ½ year each. The very first government of Sindh led by Ayub Khuhro was dismissed in eight months. His fault was that he was unhappy with the central government decision to annex Karachi as the federal capital city. This decision resulted in robbing the best city of the province and shifting of the provincial capital to Hyderabad. Being the only port city of Karachi had the great potential to grow in the new state of Pakistan. Seeds of discord among the locals and migrants were thus sown. By 1951 five governments had changed and then the Governor rule was imposed in December 1953.
In the next two years two governments were changed before the provinces were abolished and One Unit was established to create artificial parity with East Pakistan. This was an unjust move to deprive the people of East Pakistan of their majority status and to take away the rights of the smaller provinces (Sindh and NWFP) in West Pakistan to rule themselves. Baluchistan was not even given the status of a province at that time.
After a long interlude of over 17 years and at the cost of losing half the country, provinces were re-established in 1972 following a long consistent movement against the one unit in East Pakistan and the smaller provinces of the Western wing.
1972 Pakistan Peoples party’s government was established in the province led by Mumtaz Ali Bhutto — the talented cousin of Mr Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. But within 1 ½ year ZAB felt that this cousin was the man of his own thinking and would not take dictates from the centre. So he was changed with an amiable Ghulam Mustafa Jatoi who lasted till the 1977 July military coup.
After seven years of military rule, General Zia held elections in 1985 on a nonparty basis. Two governments were removed by 1988 when after General Zia’s mysterious killing, in what appeared to be an internal coup, elections were held to restore democracy in the country.
In the next around 28 years, but not without long interruptions by the Governor rules, 15 governments including the present incumbent have ruled this province. Pakistan Peoples Party has had a longest rule over the province and former Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah had the longest term in all the three stints put together.
Two factors emerge from this narration showing why the success of Sindh governments have failed to deliver: first, the life of the elected in provincial governments has been at an average less than two years; second, none of these governments had a free hand as the central government always liked to keep the remote control of the province in its hand. And that’s not all. Even when there has been the Peoples party government in the centre in the province the PPP’s leadership wanted a weak Chief Minister and an obedient provincial government. We have seen in the recent past that the Peoples party unholy trinity was meddling in the day-to-day affairs of the government even the cases of appointments and promotions was not in the hands of the ministers and the Chief Minister.
The province of Sindh has also many other complexities which makes it difficult to govern. It has at least three major power centres besides the elected government: the army and the Rangers; Peoples Party’s Trinity; and the MQM leadership in the urban centres. The urban-rural divide is unfortunately an ethnic divide also. In the absence of a strong local government there is a perpetual power struggle for control over the urban areas. At the one end there is the provincial government, which is predominantly elected from the rural areas and at the other end there is the middle class Mohajir urban leadership. This has made this province very difficult to rule.
Most of the rural areas are represented by the big quasi-feudal families of Sindh. The present composition of the new provincial cabinet is a good example of these families’ control on the politics of the province. The composition of the Cabinet is not on the basis of what is required to manage the different departments of the provincial government but it is to satisfy all the big landlords of rural Sindh, keeping an eye on the 2018 elections. Once these feudal lords become a minister they treat their respective departments like their own fiefdom. Most ministers also use this opportunity to post their personal financial positions and tragically they are quite blatant about it. A major drawback of the PPP in Sindh has been that it doesn’t have much following in the urban areas. It is almost like abdicating the Urban Sindh by the PPP to the MQM, which is also evident from the composition of the provincial cabinet.
In this backdrop not much hope should be pinned with the new Chief Minister and his team for bringing a change in the fortune of this province. But all said and done even if he succeeds in improving the gutter management and the garbage management of the province. Nobody is going to stop him from doing that. And if he is successful in this very mundane task, I would vote for him in the next elections.
The writer can be reached at ayazbabar@gmail,com