- Making the wrong sort of waves
The Attoney general for Pakistan, Mr Khalid Jawed Khan, told the Supreme Court that the federal government was looking at all the constitutional options available to it, and would act soon, in the matter of the Sindh government. He made this statement after the Court itself, which was hearing a petition about encroachments on nullahs, had made scathing remarks about the Sindh government’s failure to handle the problems of Karachi during the monsoon, where the rain has led to flooding and deaths by electrocution, because of the blocking of nullahs. Mr Khalid Khan’s remarks were taken, along with other recent developments, as an indication that the federal government intended to impose Governor’s rule in the province, and get rid of the provincial government.
The provincial government is a thorn in its side because it belongs to the PPP, while the federal government has been formed by the PTI. The role of Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah during the covid-19 pandemic was seen by Prime Minister Imran Khan as rivaling his own, but worse, whereas Mr Khan appeared at sea and indecisive, Mr Shah seemed to know exactly what needed to be done, and then went ahead and did it. Along the way, he made it seem that he was leading the response, as what he did one day was followed the next by the rest of the country. An example was the lockdown issue. It seemed Mr Khan was allergic to the word, just because Mr Shah imposed one, while Mr Khan opposed it. Mr Khan did not rest until he coined the term ‘smart lockdown’ and insisted that the rest of the world was following him in this. Mr Shah also refused to join Mr Khan in bypassing the 18th Amendment’s provision locking the provincial shares of the National Finance Commission Award.
The provision for the provincial government should not be limited to political disagreements or personality clashes. There must be a severe breakdown of the constitutional machinery in the province, not just some federal disagreements with how the province is functioning. The opposition is already facing Mr Khan’s refusal to deal with it; any attempt to overturn its popular mandate will not be acceptable.