As the Members of the National Assembly settle into their seats, it remains unclear whether the residents of Islamabad will gain anything from the votes they cast. Ikram Junaidi explores the role that MNAs can play in developing the capital.
While the rest of the country is effectively inaugurating members of parliament, and avidly awaiting new development projects in their constituencies, Islamabad is facing a very different situation.
In the country’s capital, the Capital Development Authority (CDA) calls the shots, leaving public representatives to limit their project work to rural areas of the federal capital—30 per cent of the city’s territory.
Even in the capital’s rural areas, grants are used through the Islamabad Capital Territory (ICT) administration, meaning that public representatives have fewer opportunities to oblige people or address the issues of the federal capital’s residents.
Member of National Assembly from NA-49, and the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), Tariq Fazal Chaudhry, is the most appropriate example of the phenomenon.
Although he belongs to a party that will rule in the centre and in Punjab, he will not be allowed to start development projects in the federal capital’s urban areas.
While talking to Dawn, Dr. Chaudhry said that Members of the National Assembly (MNAs) get grants, but can only give recommendations. Development work comes under the CDA, and the CDA rarely entertains recommendations.
“For example, if an MNA gets Rs10 million, and there is a need for electricity, I write a letter to the prime minister’s secretariat, and the money (from the grant) is directly transferred to the relevant electricity department to complete the work,” Dr Chaudhry says.
The MNA points out what work needs to be done, and the CDA may be given some money or may use its own resources. For example, if there is a need for six water pumps, and the CDA has the resources, an MNA may point out the problem and the CDA may install three pumps, he added.
When asked whether opposition members of parliament have an easy or difficult time getting grants, Dr. Chaudhury says: “Obviously, if you are in the government, the departments listen to you. I have been in opposition (during the Pakistan People’s Party tenure) and it is very difficult to get the relevant departments to listen to you.”
“There are 200 villages in my constituency of which 150 don’t have gas. If Nawaz Sharif is the prime minister, it will certainly be easier for me to get the grant, and the gas department will also listen to me,” he said.
Javed Hashmi of Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI) has decided to vacate the NA-48 seat, but when asked whether a PTI candidate from NA-48 would face similar difficulties since they would be in the opposition, he said: “Javed Hashmi will not have problems because his constituency is Islamabads urban area (sectors).
The real problem is in the rural areas of Islamabad, where there is no water, electricity or other civic facilities. Hashmi sahib has no need for initiating development in the area.”
When contacted Mian Aslam, who contested general elections for the NA-48 seat said that all development takes place under the CDA or the ICT, and that the MNAs have little influence in the area.
However, during his election campaign Mian Aslam kept complaining that it was his proposal to bring water from the Indus River to meet the requirements of the federal capital. Unfortunately his idea could not be completed even after an eight-year passage.
There are fewer opportunities to do development in the federal capital, so candidates and public representatives mostly claim that they will eliminate crime and will take action against the land mafia.
The former president of the Islamabad High Court Bar Association, Chaudhry Ashraf Gujjar, who has been planning to contest in the upcoming by-elections from the Hashmi vacated NA-48 seat has started his election campaign.
“In Islamabad a pure professional, having no other source of income than his salary, cannot afford to contest elections in view of the expenses. That is why the Qabza/Land Mafia and criminal dons make their ways into the corridors of power,” he said.
“I have been trying to show that a candidate from the lower middle class with no criminal record can also win. I am committed to fight against the menace of corruption, disparity and for the rule of law,” he said.
As a majority of the residents of the federal capital are government servants, they usually expect that they will resolve issues of salary structure, regularisation of jobs, issues of allowance and resolve issues of residence in the federal capital because issues of development and other facilities are mostly resolved by the CDA, which has a better track record as compared to other developing authorities all over the country.
One of the examples is that on Friday members of the Central Academic Staff Association of Islamabad Model Colleges headed by Prof Rasheed Khan had a meeting with newly elected Member of the National Assembly, Dr Tariq Fazal Choudhry, and informed him about their problems.
Prof Rasheed Khan said that although the last government took some good steps towards regularizing the services of daily wage teachers, education as a whole was not on the priority list of forgoing rulers.
This was the reason why problems of the teaching community multiplied in the last couple of years.
Teachers were regularised but no posts were created, leaving regularised teachers in a state of fix.
“The education standards of Islamabads Model Colleges are falling from bad to worse due to the unfair policies of the administration. Teachers are kept under constant threat of transfer or expulsion from service and are intimidated so that they act according to the whims of principals. So, we have been hoping that our public representative will play his role to resolve our issues,” he said.
On the other hand, in a nearby constituency, NA-51, in which former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf had to face defeat and Raja Mohammad Javed Ikhlas has won, there is a different politics.
Raza Abdul Sami, a resident of Gujar Khan who is currently residing in Islamabad, said that in Gujar Khan they have voted for Javed Ikhlas because of the development work he did while he was the District Nazim of Rawalpindi.
“We are expecting that Javed Ikhlas will be considered as a member of cabinet and follow that up with developing his area, which has no facilities as compared to Islamabad. In the federal capital, we don’t have expectations with public representatives for development work because the CDA is responsible for that,” he says.
The spokesman of the CDA, Malik Saleem, while talking to Dawn, said that according to rules public representatives cannot do development work in the urban area controlled by the CDA.
“Representatives mostly do their development work in rural areas and even for that, the ICT administration deals it and MNAs cannot initiate development on their own,” he said.
“However MNAs keep visiting the CDA and they can recommend schemes for the benefit of the public. CDA management respects MNAs and tries to implement their recommendations because they get votes from the area, and they also have equal rights to highlight the issues of residents in the federal capital,” he says.