Karachiites will certainly remember fiery speeches from Altaf Hussain and other MQM leaders of the 1980’s and 1990’s where he argued and pleaded against the rural-urban quota system which had been imposed in the Sindh province since 1973. MQM, at that point, had argued strongly that such a quota system was not only undemocratic, but also prejudiced, and sought to alienate the educated urban middle class, and create a permanent rift between the Sindhis and the Mohajirs.
The argument, as I remember clearly from public rallies and TV appearances of Altaf Hussain, was that Pakistan needed to move towards a merit-based system, and far away from a quota system. This would be just and equitable, and would also ensure that the best qualified people were taking up government jobs.
With that manifesto in mind, the news today in Daily Times that Sindh gov’t has decided to do away with a Rural-Urban quota system, in favor of a political party based quota system, where MQM gets to have 50% of the appointment offers, comes as a surprise. Yes, maybe I should not be as surprised as I am given the recent history of MQM’s performance as a political party and in the government, but it still boggles my mind how they consider this to be just, equitable and better for the province? And what happened to the idea that a quota system was creating a dangerous rift between the different communities? According to the news:
For the first time since 1973, the Sindh government will appoint officers according to their party affiliations rather than on an urban-rural quota. This decision, made about two months ago, has proved extremely unpopular with ministers and other workers of the government who are planning to protest.
Thus, the quota system has been replaced with a ‘party quota’. The former policy stated that 60 percent of employees will be from rural areas and 40 percent will be from urban areas. The new policy says that 50 percent of employees will be from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), 30 percent from the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid and the remaining 20 percent from other ruling coalition parties.
A recruitment cell has been set up at Chief Minister House and the CM has put close aide Senator Abdul Ghaffar Qureshi in charge. All departments, excluding those running under the control of MQM ministers, have been asked to send their appointment letters to the cell from where the letters will be distributed among the “successful” candidates. Under the unannounced agreement, all vacancies in the jurisdiction of the City District Government Karachi would also be filled through MQM’s nominations.
While governments all over the world have political appointees in certain key posts, it is almost unheard of in modern competitive economies to have such a ridiculous quota system. Does this mean that non-members of political parties, or members of opposition parties, now have no chance of getting government jobs even if they were much better qualified for them? What does this mean for the government bureaucracy that is already plagued with nepotism, incompetence, and corruption. And to say the least, what about continuity in operation. Will we see a change of faces, and confusion, at the local post office, courts, government offices every time the provincial government changes?
Not surprisingly, civic organization and labor unions are starting to protest against such a plan, even if currently no new hires are being made by the government.
Sources said that provincial ministers of the ruling party have advised their party workers and employees to protest. A leader of the Sindh Employees United Alliance and president of the All Pakistan Clerks Association Peral Dayo told Daily Times that they planned to file a petition in the Sindh High Court and would hold protests. Unions have announced a Sindh-wide protest and some of them have said that the issue will be taken up at the All Pakistan Democratic Movement meeting in Islamabad today.
The policy seems not only as bad as, if not worse, than the earlier policy of quota system, but is also bound to create further fissures between the working class in Sindh. There is no need to provide more fuel to the divisive party politics that is already burdening the economy of Sindh.