WEB DESK: While the PPP’s second tier leaders have been insisting the young party Chairman, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, is now fully in charge of the party affairs, who still is in charge is plain from the manner the Sindh chief minister has been changed.
Events of the last few days show Bilawal remains a mere trainee while the decision making authority resides in a Dubai palace.
That is where the senior leaders were summoned- of course using public money – and told Syed Qaim Ali Shah goes out as chief minister of Sindh to be replaced by Syed Murad Ali Shah. The new nominee’s name though was formally announced by Bilawal, following a party meeting he chaired, so as to give the impression that he chose Murad Ali Shah after consultations with party leaders. In a futile attempt to portray the charade as something genuine, information advisor to the outgoing CM, MaulaBuxChandio, told reporters Bilawal Bhutto Zardari had decided to bring in “young leadership” for the province’s betterment.
A recurrent question in the ensuing conversation is that, why did Dubai suddenly decide to fire Qaim Ali Shah having reposed full trust in him for the last eight years? Many in the media have opined that it was his soft approach in dealing with the Rangers that cost him his job; and that the new man in would be assertive. In reality, it was never in doubt that the decision to give or withhold extensions to the paramilitary force’s operation in Karachi was not for the CM to make. Each time the subject came up for renewal, Qaim Ali Shah did not even pretend he had any choice in the matter.
His government’s standard practice was to refuse extension in the paramilitary force’s policing powers for a few days, and wait for the go-ahead from the party co-Chairman – now President – Asif Ali Zardari living in Dubai. As a matter of fact, the latest meeting in Dubai was supposed to be about the Rangers request to not only renew the mandate for Karachi but also to expand operations to the rest of the province. Change of the guard was not on the agenda. According to reports, what happened was just as surprising for CM Qaim Ali Shah as for others, including the Leader of the Opposition, Syed Khushid Shah, who told journalists he had no knowledge about the development.
As for the issue of Rangers powers, the orders from Dubai are to give the extension for Karachi and seek an assurance that they would not arrest any elected member of the legislature or bureaucrat, and that they would inform the CM before taking action in any part of the province other than Karachi. Considering that the powers-that-be and the federal government are on the much clichéd same page regarding this particular issue, the new CM, despite his said dynamism, may not be able to afford resistance to the request/demand for long.
There can be hardly two opinions on that the change was necessary. Poor governance and rampant corruption have been the hallmark of the Qaim Ali Shah tenure, but for no fault of his. Untainted by corruption, he has been a mere figurehead. His authority right from the outset was exercised by the Zardari family and cronies. For a considerable period the party supremo’s adoptive brother, AwaisMuzaffar, was known to call the shots. After he had to make his exit, Zardari’ssisterFaryalTalpur stepped in to manage the province’s affairs.
She is known to have been making important appointments and transfers and doing whatever else caught her fancy. Some of the ministers having direct access to Zardari routinely went over the CM’s head to do their own thing, whether it was to nurture the infamous Lyari gang to fight a turf war with the other dominant political force in Karachi, or brazen loot and plunder of public money, or building imaginary roads, dispensaries, and ghost schools with ghost teachers.
A certain minister even hired fictitious municipal workers. Equally noteworthy, under the Shah’s previous term, coalition partners ran militant wings, which a Supreme Court bench hearing the Karachi law and order case found were involved in target killings, land grabbing, extortion, and kidnapping for ransom in the provincial capital. Even if he wanted the CM could not control the activities that went on under the policy of ‘reconciliation’ enunciated by the party’s top leader and promoted by his close confidante, Rehman Malik. The outgoing CM, however, shares the blame for keeping his eyes shut to the goings-on for the sake of enjoying perks of power.
The changeover seems to have been dictated by a belated realisation that unrestrained misgovernance will have consequence for the PPP’s electoral prospects in the next general elections- due in a couple of years’ time. As it is, the party has already been wiped out in the largest province, Punjab, and has a token presence in KPK.
Something had to be done before even Sindh slipped out of hands. Which is why in his very first interview he gave after his nomination for chief minister, Murad Ali Shah listed among his priorities the law and order situation, and a health and education emergency to improve the social sector’s performance. He has put his finger on the right issues, but in order to deliver he needs to have the freedom to act.
As long as vital decisions continue to be made in Dubai and the day-to-day governance controlled by the Zardari family, the change of face in Karachi is not going to bring about any improvement in the lives of ordinary people, putting a question mark on the party’s ability to regain power even in its home province of Sindh.
Source: Business Recorder