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‘Occupy’ Karachi?

A strategic committee made by the prime minister with Federal Law Minister Dr Farogh Naseem to suggest a plan of action to improve the overall situation in Karachi is apparently going to suggest that the federal cabinet take over the administrative affairs of the port city by enforcing a constitutional clause – Article 149. Article 149 (4) reads: “The executive authority of the Federation shall also extend to the giving of directions to a Province as to the manner in which the executive authority thereof is to be exercised for the purpose of preventing any grave menace to the peace or tranquility or economic life of Pakistan or any part thereof.”
If approved by the cabinet, the provision will come into effect immediately. The minister says they may also approach the Supreme Court in case the provincial government foils the bid.
By all means, the minister’s approach to occupy Karachi and handover its control to the federal government is another form of the Muttahidda Qaumi Movement’s longtime dream of creating a separate province consisting of Karachi and Hyderabad. Not to forget, of course, that the minister is a senator of MQM. The demand for a separate province for the rural lot has always attracted an overwhelming opposition from the all of Sindh and other parts of Pakistan. The minister’s suggestion, which he says is his personal view, has opened a Pandora ‘s Box of mixed reaction. Meanwhile, the committee which was tasked with planning short-, medium- and long-term measures for the betterment of the metropolis has lost its core objective. At the outset, the composition of the committee was farcical: the 12-member Karachi Strategic Committee had six members each from the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the MQM, while the Pakistan Peoples’ Party, which rules two municipal districts of Karachi, was left out of the committee.
The ruling PPP has opposed the idea tooth and nail. It is unclear, even if the article is enforced and Karachi is separated from Sindh, who exactly will rule the mega city – the mayor or the governor? Sindh Information Minister Saeed Ghani says Article 149 (4) cannot be enforced just on the pretext of garbage or sanitation issues. If this precedent is set the centre may take over any part of Pakistan, breaching the autonomy of provinces.
It seems the federal government is desperate to take over Sindh, the only province being ruled by an opposition party. First, attempts were made to create a forward bloc in the PPP, which backfired. Later, the accountability watchdog was moved against the chief minister. Now, it is Article 149 (4). The federal government must tread very carefully.



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