Imran Govt in action: Imposition of Article 149

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THE dire consequences of Indian Government’s action related to revocation of Article 370 and 35-A are now very visible and being felt terribly. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi took his time in abrogating Article 370 that had given special status to Indian Occupied Kashmir. Scheme of doing away of the Article 370 was mentioned in BJP’s election manifesto. According to J&K Supreme Court as well as the Supreme Court of India, abrogation was not permissible.

It has been again challenged in the Indian Supreme Court and as per the consensus legal opinion; the Supreme Court could most likely annul the BJP government’s decision. Notwithstanding all the preparations to undo the Article 370 by BJP government, what is regrettable is the failure of PTI government in Pakistan and its intelligence agencies that failed to keep it abreast with the Indian moves, only to be caught napping with their pants down to be accepted by Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi that they were aware of the Indian moves but could not judge that the abrogation of the Article 370 and Article 35-a would come so soon. That was the reason for its failure to launch a counter offensive in international forums or the United Nations through hectic diplomatic efforts. It was, indeed, total failure of Foreign Office sensors as Dr Nazir Gilani sums it up in his latest article on Kashmir in Daily Times (Sept 16).

KARACHI: Sep16 – A broken view of sewerage nullah at Hussain Abad area at Government Delhi College Avenue by people facing troubles in provincial capital.

While Delhi took time and did not hide its moves from Pakistan, PTI government was perhaps taking it as precedence for it to act in a similar manner as of Prime Minister Modi’s. Hardly anti-Article 370 clamour had died down that PTI leadership rushed to do its own act when its Law Minister Faroogh Naseem let the cat out of the bag that it was seriously contemplating to exercise Federal Government’s authority under Article 149 of the Constitution of Pakistan to take over the administration of Sindh province’s capital -Karachi. Later, the Law Minister took a U-turn and said that it was not the opinion of the government but his personal view.

The lethal controversy deliberately ignited by Federal Minister Faroogh Naseem has transgressed alarming dimensions that pose a serious threat to the very existence of the federation. Now one can understand why did Imran Khan after having abused MQM to his hilt, made Farogh Naseem head of the “high-level Karachi Transformation Committee” instead of one of his own legislators or leaders such as Constitutional expert Hamid Khan? Now we also know why did Farogh Naseem start the debate on imposition of Article 149 even before the committee held its first meeting?

According to leading constitutional law expert Salman Akram Raja “Article 149 does not allow federal government to take over provincial functions”. Columnist Zaigham Khan is absolutely right in stating “Even a lay person can see that Article 149 is totally out of context in Karachi’s situation. Even if this Article carried such farfetched meanings that the MQM is trying to read in it, there is a huge gap between what can be done and what should be done. Mr Beans is funny because he does what can be done, not what should be done. And we know that comedy and tragedy are two sides of the same coin, both rooted in the absurdity of the situation.”

Indeed, Faroogh Naseem’s was clearly a political statement meant to achieve political gains for his party MQM often suspected of secretly pursuing independence goals. It is too farfetched an idea for the federation to take control of Karachi when its track record in running the country has been disastrously dismally suicidal.

We have also experienced the mess created by the Federal government through its direct administration of Fata for over seven decades. It is a correct observation that federal babus could only create a situation that almost lost Fata and Waziristan to the Taliban only to be retrieved through military operation under democratic government. The long-time strong man President General Pervez Musharraf by his failure to grapple the situation in Red Mosque, gave almost a free hand to Mullah Fazlulah alias Mulla Radio to knock at the doors of Islamabad. He was just 80 km away from Islamabad to make it capital of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. Surely, in view of Zaigham, the solution to Karachi’s problem lies in decentralization, not in centralization nor its out sourcing to MQM with the stigma of body bags and Bhatta mafia.

In PTI’s scheme of things, it is seeking to establish its hegemony with the help of its selectors, by denying each province to establish by law local government system and devolve political, administrative and financial responsibility and authority to the elected representatives of the local governments. Obviously the situation is creating huge regional disparities and fomenting ethnic polarisation in every province.

It has destroyed the local bodies system in Punjab to eliminate PMLN control and minimise its political influence. Indeed, Karachi needs a lot more devolution to have more access to financial resources since it cannot be managed on provincial resources alone. As rightly pointed out, “Karachi carries a lot of the burden of the federation by taking one million new residents from other federating units every year. Karachi absorbs the enormous burden of refugees, IDPs and the extreme poor from each part of the country. It also provides economic opportunities to capable professionals and businesses. Most of all, it is a port city on which the economy of the whole country is reliant. It is one place in Imran Khan’s Naya Pakistan where no one sleeps empty stomach whereas in other provinces suicidal deaths out of starvation have become phenomenal.

Karachi deserves extra resources from the federation and it must fight for a fair share from Islamabad.” Imran Khan in his new found love for MQM “promised Rs162 billion to transform Karachi. The PTI allocated merely 12 billion in the budget, and according to claims of the provincial government, not a single rupee has been spent so far. The federal government must put its money where its mouth is.” The failure to keep his commitment to provide adequate funds is much more of the same.

To borrow conclusive words from PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, “anti-democratic forces could not digest provincial autonomy, economic rights of the provinces and the 18th amendment… Puppet rulers had attacked the 18th amendment by frequently expressing their hate. He said that due to failure of the Centre, the provinces had become bankrupt, and Sindh was facing a loss of Rs 100 billion”. He said that under the constitution, first right was always of the relevant provinces over natural resources, but the Centre was depriving people of Sindh of gas royalty.

Since PTI leader is clueless about history he does not know it was the failure of Indian Congress leadership to comprehend the question and seriousness of autonomy issue in Undivided India that led to its break up and later creation of Bangladesh. Had Congress accepted Quaid’s 14 points Indo-Pakistan sub-continent could have got rid of British Raj much earlier than it actually came about.

(The writer is the former High Commissioner of Pakistan to UK and a veteran journalist.)