–Bilawal accuses Centre of ‘trying to occupy Karachi’, warns against conspiracy to divide Pakistan
–Farogh Naseem says statement on invocation of Article 149 taken ‘out of context’
–Sindhi intellectuals demand resignation of federal law minister for trying to divide Sindh
ISLAMABAD/KARACHI: Federal Law Minister Farogh Naseem’s statement the other day at the possible invocation of Article 149 (4) in Karachi has garnered fierce opposition from across Sindh, as the minister sought to clarify on Thursday that he only suggested this in good faith and with a noble intention of solving problems facing the financial capital of Pakistan.
Several politicians, including Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari and PML-F chief Pir Pagara, writers, intellectuals and civil society activists have termed the statement a “conspiracy” against Pakistan and demanded Naseem’s resignation.
In a statement, Naseem said that his statement on invocation of Article 149 (4) had been taken out of context.
“Not just me, we should all be concerned for Karachi and the problems being faced by people there,” he said.
On Wednesday, Naseem disclosed that the federal government is considering taking over the administrative affairs of Karachi by enforcing a constitutional clause that he said permits it to do so.
“After getting approval of the cabinet the provision will be exercised and in case of any resistance shown by the provincial government we will approach the Supreme Court under Article 184(1) of the Constitution to seek a directive in this regard and if the province still shows reluctance we will file a contempt petition in the SC,” he said.
He said that right now it was his personal view that the Centre should take over Karachi’s affairs. Any decision was likely to be taken by PM Khan during his visit to the metropolis on Sept 14, he added.
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.”
Naseem is the head of a high-powered committee recently set up by the prime minister to work out plans to address issues being faced by the residents of Karachi. The committee is tasked with suggesting short-, medium- and long-term measures for the betterment of the metropolis.
Subsequently, the panel in its meeting formed a 12-member Karachi Strategic Committee with six members each from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) — the two opposition parties in Sindh.
However, many people see the move as a tactic by the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) to divert people’s attention from the deteriorating economic situation and governance standards in the country.
‘CENTRE TRYING TO OCCUPY KARACHI’:
Addressing a press conference in Hyderabad, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari accused the federal government of “trying to occupy Karachi”.
“You try to build a narrative against [Indian Prime Minister Narendra] Modi, saying that he unconstitutionally captured occupied Kashmir, and at the same time you try to occupy Karachi. This is bizarre,” Bilawal said.
He said Prime Minister Imran Khan, “who has vowed to protect human rights in [occupied] Kashmir, has ripped apart democratic rights of the people of Pakistan.
“You want to run Karachi from Islamabad?” he asked
Bilawal said that the PPP, which is the ruling party in Sindh, “will never accept any conspiracy” against the province.
“According to the Constitution, the province that produces a resource is entitled to utilise it before providing it to the rest of the country,” the PPP chief said, referring to Sindh government’s longstanding complaint that the province, despite producing natural gas, was not receiving its due share.
The federal government is trying to provide gas produced in Sindh to the rest of the country and wants the province’s residents to use expensive LNG gas imported from Qatar, Bilawal alleged.
If the federal government “continues to weaken democratic powers in the country, oppresses its people, steals their human rights and on top of that, tries to occupy their land and city, do you think that your country will survive?” Bilawal said.
“This country has already been broken in the past when Islamabad has tried to control the state. It’s not like those people were less patriotic than you or me […] If PPP and other like-minded parties don’t stand up, tomorrow, separate Sindhi and Pashtun states might be formed,” he warned.
“Come to your senses! The Islamic democratic system is what has kept this country together,” he said.
Pakistan Muslim League-Functional (PML-F) leader Pir Pagara also criticised the federal minister’s statement, saying that Prime Minister Imran Khan must declare Karachi as capital of Pakistan.
“Karachi was the capital of Pakistan, however, it was shifted to Islamabad. It’s time now to shift the federal capital to Karachi,” Pagara said.
‘UNCONSTITUTIONAL MOVE TO BE OPPOSED BY SINDHIS’:
As the news spread on mainstream and social media, hashtags such as “#SindhRejectsKarachiCommittee”, “#United SindhUnitedPakistan” were seen as the top Twitter trends on Thursday.
“Article 149 (4) only pertains to the exercise of the executive authority of the federal government in a province. For example, if due to a blockade of roads, port operations or shipping is affected in Karachi, then the federal government can direct the province to remove the blockade. It has nothing to do with the executive power of the province,” Barrister Zamir Ghumro, a former advocate general of Sindh, said while commenting on the issue.
According to him, any such unconstitutional move by the Centre would be vehemently opposed by the people of Sindh. “Sindh is united to defeat any move related to Article 149 (4), which does not even have the scope or meaning being attributed to it,” said Ghumro.
Karachi-based senior journalist Talat Aslam expressed concern over a possible repeat of the city’s violent past.
Writer and intellectual, Jami Chandio, also took a strong stand against the Centre’s plans for Sindh’s capital city. “Big NO to the so-called ‘Karachi Committee’! Karachi is Sindh and Sindh is Karachi.”
Apart from Pakistan, members of the Sindhi diaspora living in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom have also reacted strongly.
Sindhi Association of North America (SANA) condemned Naseem’s remarks and demanded his removal as the federal law and justice minister.
“The federal government must control its political proxies from dividing people in Sindh based on ethnicity. Karachi is the heart and soul of our historic homeland, Sindh, and we as a nation will not tolerate any malicious attack on our capital,” said SANA’s executive committee in a statement.