The Sindh Imbroglio

21 Nov, 1998    ·   160

Suba Chandran analyses the dismissal of the government in Sindh and says the best option for Nawaz Sharif is to dissolve the Assembly and call for fresh elections

The current crisis in Sindh started with the killing of Hakim Mohammad Saeed during the third week of October. Prime Minister Nawaz Shariff accused the Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) for being involved in the murder. Following this allegation the MQM, then a part of the ruling alliance, withdrew from the alliance. This resulted in Nawaz Sharif imposing Governor's rule in Sindh after dismissing the provincial government. However the Provincial Assembly has not been dissolved. The Speaker has summoned the Assembly, following a requisition filed by 28 MPAs belonging to the MQM. Thereupon the Federal Government issued a notification suspending the powers of the Speaker of the Sindh Assembly. Nevertheless, defiant legislators held a meeting on November 12th; however when they tried to hold another meeting on 18th November, they were not allowed to enter the Assembly premises.



Firstly, the imposition of Governor's rule in Sindh. The Federal Government's decision to dismiss only the government was not an uncalculated decision. After MQM withdrew its support, Nawaz Sharif had two options. The Pakistan People's Party is the single largest party (37 seats of the total 109 seats ) in the Provincial Assembly, hence it could have been consulted regarding the formation of a new government. The other option was to dissolve the Assembly, which implied that fresh elections would have to be held within three months. Nawaz Sharif knows that if the PPP were asked to form the government, it would have secured the support of other parties including the MQM, and form an alternate government. He also knows that fresh elections may not bring the PML to power. Thus, it was for  narrow political objectives that the provincial assembly was not dissolved but the government was dismissed..



Secondly, Governor's rule in Sindh is bound to have a negative impact. The MQM and Speaker of the Sindh Assembly have already filed separate cases in the Courts, the former against the dismissal of the government and the latter against suspension of the powers of the Speaker. Besides the Provincial Assembly has already taken a confrontationist approach vis-à-vis the Federal Government. The session to take place in the Assembly on the 16th was blocked as the Assembly premises were sealed. Two days later, even the Speaker was not allowed to enter the Assembly premises. The Speaker and the provincial legislators criticised the Governor's order to disallow the elected legislators and the Speaker, who is the Custodian of the Provincial Assembly, inside the house as illegal and unconstitutional. Given the mood the Provincial Legislators are in, they may continue to try and hold parallel meetings and  may also attempt even to pass resolutions condemning Governor's rule. Whatever resolutions the legislators pass, whether they have legal validity or not, will cause serious embarrassment to the Centre and lead to a constitutional crisis. This would increase the already existing anti-Centre and pro regional sentiments. Though exaggerated, there have been comparisons of Sindh, with the former East Pakistan . Hence the Governor's rule,  is bound to alienate Sindh further from the Centre.



Thirdly, Governor's rule in Sindh is bound to increase the violence in Sindh. The Federal government sees the present situation as a simple law and order problem has tried to find a solution through force. The recent history of Sindh shows the failure of law and order approaches by successive civilian and military regimes. The MQM cannot be curbed through force, because of its strong support at grass root level. Any attempt to limit the activities of MQM will only increase its support . Peace in Sindh is only possible if all the rival groups are politically engaged.



Fourthly, the political equations in Sindh seem to be changing. Anti Nawaz sentiments, will bring the PPP and MQM together, sooner than later. This alliance, along with other smaller parties may exploit the regional sentiments against the Punjabi domination.



The best option before of Nawaz Sharif is to dissolve the Assembly immediately and call for fresh elections. An immediate call for election may witness the PPP and the MQM contesting separately, because the alliance have not yet been formed. However, any extension of Governor's rule will increase the possibility of  an anti Nawaz alliance in Sindh that includes the PPP, MQM and other parties. Secondly, if the Court gives a verdict against the dismissal of the government and/or the suspension of powers of the Speaker, it may serve the cause of this anti Nawaz alliance and strengthen it. Then it will become even mpre difficult for Nawaz Sharif to find a solution to the Sindh imbroglio.