Does Karachi benefit from the 18th Amendment?

The Sindh government has always ensured that key affairs related to Karachi’s management remain under its tight control.
Updated 21 Aug, 2019 04:20pm

For most liberal and democratic folks in the country, 19 April 2010 had a special meaning. It was on this day that then-President Asif Ali Zardari signed the 18th Constitutional Amendment Bill that had far reaching legal and administrative impacts.

Among many changes, the Amendment empowered the provinces to a significant extent in financial and administrative terms. For many, it was synonymous to restoring the federation to its desired form.

It was also believed that once the provinces acquire greater financial autonomy, the devolution shall continue down to the tier of local government. Article 140A was inserted in the Constitution under the 18th Amendment that allowed political, administrative and financial authority to be devolved to the representatives of the local governments.

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Sadly, the provinces did not show the desired level of maturity in distributing the powers and resources to municipal level. Holding local bodies elections was not considered a priority.

It was under the Supreme Court’s orders that elections to local councils were held during 2014-15. While elected councils are in place, negligible powers and resources now lie at municipal disposal. The case of Karachi deserves a special mention here due to some extraordinary characteristics of the metropolis.

A city apart

Karachi comprises six administrative districts. If one holds the 2017 census results to be valid, the city possesses 16.5 million inhabitants, which is about a third of Sindh’s population.

This means that Karachi accounts for 8 per cent of total national and 20pc of national urban population. The metropolis contributes 15pc of Pakistan’s gross domestic product, 25pc of federal revenue, 50pc of bank deposits and 68pc of issued capital.

It comprises inhabitants from almost everywhere in the country and many other parts of the region. As Pakistan's largest and most developed city, Karachi merits an extraordinary governance arrangement, especially after the 18th Amendment.

It is, however, interesting to note that Karachi has seldom enjoyed political harmony with the rest of Sindh. For instance, in the 1970 general election, most of Karachi’s seats were won by opposition parties including the Jamaat-i-Islami and the Jamiat-i-Ulema Pakistan while Sindh was ruled by the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP).

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Election results in 1977 showed the same trend, with the PPP winning with significant margins everywhere in the province except Karachi. Nine out of 11 seats in the National Assembly were won by the Pakistan National Alliance (coalition of main opposition parties).

Later, after the meteoric rise of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), the city voted for them in overwhelming numbers in successive elections. Even when the MQM was pressured to keep away from elections in some instances, the PPP or any other mainstream party never succeeded in winning the majority of the votes in Karachi.

It was only in 2018 that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf rose to prominence with smaller number of seats going to the MQM.

Acts of control

For a very long time, the provincial government has successfully attempted to outfox the parties and leaders who won the elections and represented Karachi in national and provincial legislatures. The Sindh government has always ensured that key affairs related to Karachi’s management remain under its tight control.

Let’s review matters related to the built environment. The Sindh High Density Board Act of 2010 empowered the provincial government to assign fresh zoning to any designated parcel of land or adjust the floor area ratio of existing buildings. As a consequence, there are many tall buildings that can be found replacing the smaller structures purely due to commercial gains.

Those familiar with the covert wheeling-and-dealing that is done to strike deals between the government functionaries, builders, developers and investors for realising such lucrative deals can make near accurate estimates about monetary gains by each in this sure marriage of convenience.

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Dozens of bungalows and low-rise buildings in Serai Quarters, Bath Island and other high-end locations are being replaced by tall structures. Many sleeping building permits have already been issued to various builders and developers, under the tutelage of their political cronies, who wait for the opportune time to convert these permits into reality.

This entire enterprise is under provincial control with no link to local government in any respect.

The functions and responsibilities of development control, building construction management and urban planning for the city are also converged under the Sindh Building Control Authority.

Similarly, for years the management and control of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) has been under the local government department of the Sindh government.

The efforts of various national and international agencies to reform the vital water utility have failed to materialise due to indifference of the provincial authorities.

While the KWSB is a financially weak organisation, Karachi’s water sector is a lucrative enterprise for sure. According to some estimates, water worth Rs57 billion is stolen annually in Karachi.

To completely take away the onus of any municipal performance from the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation and other tiers of local government, the Sindh Solid Waste Management Board Act was passed in 2014.

This shifted responsibility for street cleaning, garbage removal and solid waste management from municipal agencies to the newly-created provincial entity.

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The board had been delivering these services through private contractors in four out of six districts in the metropolis. Its performance has been less than desirable.

The Supreme Court-mandated commission on water and sanitation issues in March 2017 came down hard on the board and even recommended its dismantling.

Similarly, transport, health, education, environment and housing are some of the other sectors where the provincial government reigns supreme. It is another story that the overall performance of none of these sectors matches the desired level.

Building trust and consensus

Several reasons can be found for this complete disconnect between the Sindh and local governments.

The chequered relationship between the PPP and the MQM (and now the PTI) is a cause of concern. It appears that the Sindh government is suspicious of the behind-the-scene links or influence of the establishment on these two parties.

It seems to jealously guard all legal and administrative privileges to bolster its bargaining position in any political negotiation. Its adversaries point out that PPP’s hold over these sectors is only for rent-seeking.

The second major issue is the limited capacity among the municipal ranks. For more than a decade, the MQM is alleged to have made thousands of political appointments in the lower and middle ranks of the various institutions under their control, which has weakened these institutions.

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There is a definite need to have a working dialogue and consensus on translating the benefits of 18th Amendment-led devolution to the local level. This can only happen when the federal government takes the lead and engages the Sindh government in an open dialogue.

With the MQM part of the federal coalition, a broad dialogue on matters related to power and responsibility sharing can prove effective. Without compromising on the stand that Karachi is an integral entity of Sindh, the provincial government can be made to share power and resources with the lower tier under the broad contours of Article 140A of the Constitution.

But to move ahead on this, genuine political skills and viable actions are required.

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Author Image

The writer is chairman, Department of Architecture & Planning, NED University, Karachi.

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (33) Closed

Feb 19, 2019 06:10pm
Does Karachi benefit from the 18th Amendment ? No, now the whole city looks like a garbage bin.......
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Feb 19, 2019 06:43pm
There are few families who got benefit of 18th Amendment in Sindh. Needless to mention who are they, definitely not Karachites or common rural Sindhi people.
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Feb 19, 2019 06:50pm
I think PPP Zardari group made it worse. Karachi and whole Sindh looks like a large Garbage bin. CM SHAH MUST RESIGN.
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Muzaffar Ali
Feb 19, 2019 07:02pm
all of the money have been gone in to the bank accounts of prominent Sindh leadership. so how do we say the power, and the resources distribution is possible. this is a hard study about the Sindh and its politics. I may have to go in Sindh and study hard about its politics and behavior of the leaders and people.
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Feb 19, 2019 07:12pm
Great work Dr. sahab. Thanks for taking up the mother of all problems for Karachi
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Jamil Soomro, New York City
Feb 19, 2019 07:17pm
A superb honest article on the Mega City Karachi.Every year 1 million people from other provinces move in. The last Census of 2017 is incorrect showing Karachi's Population 16.5 million.In reality today the correct Population should be 20 million.Mr.Noman Ahmed's expertise in Architecture and Planning is very well reflected in this article.
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Feb 19, 2019 07:27pm
No, never spend on Karachi or interior of Sindh in comparison to rest of country provinces, Yesterday Sindh PPP President asking of provincial share Rs.106BN, Development Project from Federal Govt. No need to give money to these Money Launders any more, Malir land has been given on one paisa as per Acre. The 18 amendment is poison for Karachi and Sindh.
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Feb 19, 2019 07:53pm
Shame on bhutto and zardari
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Napier Mole
Feb 19, 2019 07:55pm
MQM under Altaf Hussain at that time made a historical blunder when it failed to get a constitutional quid pro quo to have full fledged local government powers delegates to Sindh cities simultaneously with the devolution to provinces. This is an unforgivable crime. Once the Sindh government got its power under Zardari it conveniently and craftily ignored mqm and the urban areas and devastation
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Feb 19, 2019 08:16pm
What is amazing is that while the champions of the 18th Amendment want all the freedom given therein to them in the province of Sindh, they are unwilling to give the same freedom to the urban population of the province. This goes to show their mentality of trying to retain their control over the resources of the country and the province, at the same time denying the urban people the right to use their own resources for their betterment.
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Feb 19, 2019 09:30pm
After 18th amendment Karachi has become an orphanage city. people are suffering for water sewerage, transportation and quality affordable education.
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Feb 19, 2019 09:54pm
Resources should be directed to municipal government to improve the situation in the city. Corrupt in the past governments made billions by land grabbing, china cutting, re-zoning etc., this should stop and corrupts should be made accountable for their past actions.
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Feb 20, 2019 12:40am
Karachites have been completly ignored in government service during the last 10 years.
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Kashif B
Feb 20, 2019 02:38am
An honest audit to the state financial books since the 18th was implemented will prove the fact that PPP leadership plundered all the resources and let the whole state turned into a grabage land fill. They are corrupt to the core. How much money does one need for their 7 generation? Karachi, is not the Karachi I knew. It’s prob the dirtiest city in the country.
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Feb 20, 2019 07:50am
Does Karachi benefit from the 18th Amendment? _ Apparently not.
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Feb 20, 2019 09:01am
18 amendment is the single biggest blow to Karachi and Karachittes. Amendment itself is not bad but non implementation to local level kills it for Karachi.
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Feb 20, 2019 09:10am
People voted for the MQM out of fear, not because they loved it. I for one while living in the Garden area have never voted for this thugs party.
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Feb 20, 2019 09:24am
Its all PPP and their crooks!
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Reality Bites
Feb 20, 2019 10:21am
"The Sindh government has always ensured that key affairs related to Karachi’s management remain under its tight control." Then the Federal government need to by-pass the provincial government and empower local bodies, just like President Musharraf did.
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Feb 20, 2019 01:12pm
@Reality Bites, "Federal government need to by-pass the provincial government and empower local bodies, just like President Musharraf did." And who told you that Mr. Imran Khan cares about Karachi? Did you see him in Karachi since he became PM? Did you hear him talking about Karachi since he became PM?
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Feb 20, 2019 01:20pm
@Daanish, "I think PPP Zardari group made it worse. Karachi and whole Sindh looks like a large Garbage bin." This is the only reason he is still standing. If he tries to improve Karachi, he will be thrown out immediately. The last person who tried to do that, is being charged for high treason. Zardari is not stupid.
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Dr. Asadick, Germany
Feb 20, 2019 01:37pm
No way. And by the way encroaching around the Empress Market has started again. Get rid of PPP and the corrupt police.
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Imtiaz Agboatwala
Feb 20, 2019 02:59pm
In theory it should. But in practice, nothing good has happened to Karachi.
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Feb 20, 2019 03:05pm
@BAXAR, What about Larkana, Khairpur or Hyderabad. Do "they" stop Sindh government not to uplift those cities.
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Shakir Lakhani
Feb 20, 2019 03:20pm
First they imposed the quota system which ensures that very few Urdu speakers get jobs in the provincial government. Next they re-named the Karachi Building Control Authority as the Sindh Building Control Authority so they could get wide-ranging powers and enrich themselves. Money is the name of the game. As long as Karachi remains within Sindh, it will never get what it should. Contributing over 95% of the provincial government's revenue, it remains very poor, as most of the revenue is siphoned away to foreign bank accounts.
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Feb 20, 2019 09:10pm
Karachi should be one of the new provinces.
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Solat Amin
Feb 21, 2019 12:09pm
Although Karachi's legislators supported and voted for 18th enthusiastically but honestly speaking it has been turned into a nightmare for Sindh urban areas. PPP govt sucked all the additional funds received due of the 18th amendment. This injustice may lead to a separate province movement in urban Sindh.
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Feb 21, 2019 03:25pm
A big NO. As far as most corrupt party PPP is concerned and rules Sindh it is quite impossible that the urban and rural areas of Sindh get prosperity, progress, development, education and so on. PPP is a curse on both areas of Sindh.
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Feb 21, 2019 03:32pm
@Shakir Lakhani, Mr. Shakir Lakhani, The founder of PPP Mr. Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto broke Pakistan - a bitter truth. PPP was, is and will not be sincere to Pakistan except doing corruptions, crimes, mal-administrations, money-launderings, suppressions, etc. There is a hope that the people are seeing the real face of this corrupt party. May the inhabitants of Sindh particularly from the rural areas realise the situation.
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Feb 21, 2019 03:35pm
@Jamil Soomro, New York City, Mr. Jamil Soomro, New York City, You are right. But no expectation from PPP because this most corrupt party deals Karachi as step mother and is only and only for corruptions for decades. Corruption is motto of this party. Alas!
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Feb 21, 2019 03:47pm
@BAXAR, Mr. BAXAR, You are absolutely right.
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Feb 21, 2019 03:50pm
@LATIF SHAKOOR, Mr. LATIF SHAKOOR, 18th amendment is poison for all provinces generally and Sindh particularly. No need of 18th amendment it must be abolished. Period.
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Feb 21, 2019 05:29pm
Karachi should be a new province under central government or President's control. MQM or PPP or PTI or PML-N should not be given the control of karachi in any way.
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