PTI's one year: Has tabdeeli come to Karachi?

The party has to do a lot more to impress the city.

Updated 21 Aug, 2019 04:23pm
Imran Khan, new entrant Aamir Liaquat and other PTI leaders are all smiles at a press conference.—PP
Imran Khan, new entrant Aamir Liaquat and other PTI leaders are all smiles at a press conference.—PP

The monsoon rain was a nightmare for Karachi. It caused a complete breakdown of urban life and no help was forthcoming for the hapless citizens approaching various official helplines and complaint portals.

For the past few years, conditions are such that the city's residents can only dream of basic utilities such as access to clean drinking water, a working waste water disposal system, timely removal and disposal of garbage, decent public transport, a working and dependable healthcare system, quality educational facilities, safety from thefts and street crimes, reliable power and fuel supply and affordable housing options.

Pakistan's largest city has heard many promises and seen many schemes that were supposed to guarantee a more livable metropolis: military dictators tried to revive local governments and subdued provincial administrations in order to find a solution; with their majority vote bank in other areas of Sindh, provincial governments didn't represent Karachi beyond the optics; and becoming allies and then sitting on opposition benches, the party that once represented Karachi's majority did not achieve much after 2008 either.

Behind the progressive facade: PPP’s tactics to maintain dominance in Sindh

But soon emerged a 'saviour' on the political horizon. The Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) was seen by Karachi's denizens as the answer as early as 2012. However, during the national elections the following year, the PTI could only form a provincial government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa — but received support in other parts of the country, including Karachi.

With its pro-establishment leanings, the PTI was successful in consolidating its narrative — especially around accountability — and emerged victorious in the 2018 polls. Its successful election performance in Karachi gave the party extraordinary political strength.

When Prime Minister Imran Khan announced his cabinet, many new faces from Karachi ascended to power, including Ali Haider Zaidi and Faisal Vawda. The President of Pakistan and the Governor of Sindh also came from Karachi, alongside many appointed advisers. The party, therefore, had many voices to advocate for the city.

But what did not change was the political equation at the provincial level, where the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) retained its tight grip after winning a comfortable majority.

The PTI manifesto contained a section, Transform Karachi. Launching a new city governance model, depoliticising the police, initiating a crackdown on land and bhatta mafia, ensuring access to clean drinking water, improving waste management system, championing housing for the urban poor and enhancing mass transit system capacity were some of the core points.

Interestingly, almost all of these fall under the Sindh government's jurisdiction. The 18th Amendment extends substantial powers to the provincial chief minister, his cabinet and subordinate administrative departments. The party thus faced a dilemma: how to create an institutional premise to deliver on the mandate?

Related: The state wants to make Karachi a 'world-class' city. But what's the cost?

The PTI-led federal government had three distinct possibilities to work in Karachi, and elsewhere in Sindh.

The first was to mend fences and develop a working relationship with the PPP. From a governance perspective, this was mere common sense: whereas the federal government had a larger development portfolio to allocate from, the provincial government had the legal and administrative privileges to make use of these funds.

However, this did not happen. Due to continued political confrontation and subsequent arrests of top PPP leadership, active collaboration became impossible.

The second option for the PTI was to contribute to Karachi’s development solely through federal institutions: the Karachi Port Trust, Port Qasim Authority, Pakistan Railways, Pakistan Public Works Department, Sui Southern Gas Company, federal law enforcement agencies and cantonment boards.

These institutions' functions and jurisdictions are, however, limited. None of these bodies have the mandate to be able to properly address the complex urban problems facing the city. While Pakistan Railways attempted to work with the Sindh government to revitalise the Karachi Circular Railway, the outcome has been invisible. The federal government also constituted bodies to execute other development projects, but their success is contingent upon the provincial government's support.

The fundamental question remains as to how the federal government shall undertake these ventures given the fact that the Sindh government's support is a pre-requisite. — Illustration by Mushba Said
The fundamental question remains as to how the federal government shall undertake these ventures given the fact that the Sindh government's support is a pre-requisite. — Illustration by Mushba Said

The third option was to collaborate with the local government. The PTI’s outreach extends to the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation and three District Municipal Corporations, where they have the support of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), their coalition partners at the centre.

But municipalities' capacity to deliver services had severely eroded over the period of time due to the Sindh government's strict control over them under the new local government regime, high costs because of over staffing, poor quality of man power and limited technical and administrative resources.

Besides, according to some political pundits, the coalition between the MQM and the PTI was a marriage of convenience. It is amusing that during electioneering, both parties severely criticised each other over various counts. But due to the thin majority the PTI possessed in the national assembly, the MQM’s support was crucial.

During and after the elections, the MQM was facing tremendous pressure from the deep state. Serious criminal cases, allegations of fascism and terrorist conduct within the various ranks of the party were being investigated by various agencies.

Given the circumstances, it was easy to make the MQM enter the coalition. The relief was visible and the PTI seemed to forget the crimes their news partners had been accused of committing — including the murder of Zahra Shahid Hussain.

Also read: 'Imran Khan should think of our daughters'

It is too early to predict the future course of action of the two parties in next elections. Perhaps the upcoming local bodies elections — expected to take place soon — may unveil the electoral tendencies. One can conclude that both the PTI and the MQM will have to do a lot more to impress Karachi's citizens.

To give Karachi some hope, Imran Khan announced a Karachi package earlier this year comprising various development projects, with the net outlay of Rs162 billion. 10 projects were in urban transportation and seven were for water and sanitation. The prime minister also voiced support for the preparation of a master plan for the city.

The fundamental question remains as to how the federal government shall undertake these ventures given the fact that the Sindh government's support is a pre-requisite. The second and third options that I outlined above are not necessarily ideal either.

With the exception of the Green Line BRT — a carryover from the previous federal government — all the other projects, such as Greater Karachi Water Supply Scheme Phase IV where the federal and Sindh governments are co-financiers of the initiative, will take a long time to complete.

Many young voters and professionals are diehard PTI supporters, but this vote bank is not mobilised to the level where they are active participants in the development plans their party may have for the city.

Some 30 years ago, the MQM emerged as a well-oiled machine powered by youngsters who did wonders on many fronts. The only offshoot visible for the PTI, however, is an NGO managed by a party MNA that works to solve Karachi’s municipal problems. It has run many campaigns and protests, but is yet to acquire the form of a popular mass movement. The student and women wings of the party need to be reinvigorated as well.

But above all, it is the PTI law makers and office bearers who will have to develop a Karachi strategy for making their electoral victory worth the while for the metropolis.

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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 (31) Closed

Hyder Ali
Aug 19, 2019 05:46pm
PTI performance for Karachi 0/0
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Abdul Rahman
Aug 19, 2019 05:52pm
I left Pakistan in 2002, my last bakr Eid was different. City had a cleaning mechanism and organized. It was strange to see Karachi not getting filthy after qurbani. Who, how what.. City government under leadership of Naimut Ullah Khan with Blessing of General Pervez !!
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Aug 19, 2019 06:14pm
Karachi needs a genuine and empowered local government system, just like other the big cities of the world. Obviously, feudal-minded PPP wouldn't want power distributed. Failing that, Karachi should be an independent province/administered unit.
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Saif Zukfiqar
Aug 19, 2019 06:44pm
Karachi is ruled by PPP thugs not by honest PTI. Tabdilli should come from corrupt government of Sind.
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Saif Zukfiqar
Aug 19, 2019 06:44pm
@Hyder Ali, PTI is not the government of Sind.
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Aug 19, 2019 06:51pm
Without PPP support, there can be no development in Karachi. This was the case in the 90s and in Musharraf era too. However, Musharraf put a tight grip on them and made MQM do good on Karachi through Mustafa Kamal. Now it seems Fixit is he only NGO organization that can do something for Karachi.
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Aug 19, 2019 06:56pm
From my recent visit to Karachi, the infrastructure of the City is in shambles. I was so sad and disappointed to see the current conditions of the roads and sewerage system of the City. There are piles of garbage everywhere.
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Tahir A
Aug 19, 2019 06:56pm
The guy sitting next to IK is not a tabdeeli model.
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Love Your Country
Aug 19, 2019 07:30pm
@Abdul Rahman, - what happened to both parties is a different debate. The question here is ''has Karachi moved forward in a good way'' is anybody's guess.
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Aug 19, 2019 08:24pm
The PTI has other axes to grind. The seat of power has permanently shifted to the Punjab and Karachi has the least say in the matter. Yes, it has its nuisance value but it only comes after the others are satisfied first. And no one dare give it the same rights which they want for themselves. Otherwise how will they survive without Karachi and its populace paying for their own upkeep at the cost to the citizens of this city.
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M. Saeed
Aug 19, 2019 08:25pm
The only solution for Karachi is in making it a Donuts City. That is, making it hollow in center and expending in periphery.
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M. Emad
Aug 19, 2019 08:32pm
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M. Emad
Aug 19, 2019 09:02pm
What happens to the 'game changer' CpEC projects ?
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sajid khan
Aug 19, 2019 09:45pm
That can not be change,till nation change hearts.
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Syed Ahsan
Aug 19, 2019 09:51pm
Karachi's poor governance is on the PPP. PTI shud continue to put pressure on the PPP until their top leadership is all in jail. No point in trying to work with PPP to fix Karachi as they are the ones responsible for destroying it in the first place. They should even consider declaring a state emergency through the governor and take over Karachi. It will give them time to work on the problem without having to give relief to the PPP.
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Humaira Rahman
Aug 19, 2019 11:16pm
It is easy to condemn and blame current provincial government for the state of the city if one doesn't have an understanding of how the federation is supposed to function (and doesn't ) according to our constitution. Karachis has a history prior to 1947 as a port city under the British Raj and then as Federal capital of Pakistan for 13 yrs ( Islamabad was made capital in 1960?) and subsequently became Sindhs provincial capital. Karachi's original forefathers were shunted out in 1948 and thereafter it was flooded by 1 mil immigrants in a span of 3-4 years. It was orphaned. To subvert democracy every dictator made darlings out of local government functionaries/parties without checks and balances . A constantly hobbled relationship between federal, provincial and local political power will never improve the city substantially even if more decades go by. The key lies in greater provincial autonomy and some sincere humility / acknowledgement from MQM/PTI that Karachi is an inherent, integral and inseparable part of Sindh.
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PTI Lover
Aug 20, 2019 12:22am
@Saif Zukfiqar, do not forget honest PTI mostly constitute on the garbage of corrupt PPP.
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Abdul Zaheer
Aug 20, 2019 12:30am
Good advise and better solutions to bring tabdille in Karachi. All stake holder should think seriously and do something for Karachi's problems mentioned the writer.
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Aug 20, 2019 12:36am
Nobody cares for Karachi. It has beocme a kachra city over the past few years. Shame on all the politicians who are so eager to get a piece of Karachi but when it comes to doing something for the city, nobody is to be found. It seems it will soon become mohenjodaro...
Recommend 0
Aug 20, 2019 01:56am
Karachi & other cities should be divided into several cities & counties with independence & all public officials elected separately & independent access to property taxes & budgets to take care of their water, sanitary, water detention ponds. Utilities should also be distributed through cities. Basically similar to America
Recommend 0
Aug 20, 2019 01:58am
The PPP and MQM gangs work is now done by PTI. Everyone has failed Karachi. Sad
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Napier Mole
Aug 20, 2019 02:40am
@Humaira Rahman, You talk about greater provincial autonomy? Seriously? It was a Himalayan blunder by the then mqm headed by Altaf Hussain to have agreed to 18th Amendment without getting constitutional guarantees for the administrative and financial independence of Sindh’s urban areas. The wily Zardari took mqm for a ride which was politically fine had he or his party not been this corrupt and incompetent to turn Sindh into the worst administered province in the country.
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Fazal Karim
Aug 20, 2019 03:36am
What scares me most is return of MQM due to intentional destruction of civic services by Sindh government. I beg Prime Minister to order recount of last census figures which by design reduced Karachi and urban population of Sindh. If census is honestly carried out, Sindh urban as well as rural problems will be automatically solved to great extent.
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Aug 20, 2019 06:59am
PTI has to split Sindh into two province for Karachi to become world class city, unfortunately nobody in Pakistan wants that to happen as there hatred toward immigrants or muhajirs will never end. So all these speeches and plan will do nothing all the money will end up in PPP pockets and nobody will be held responsible.
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Chris Roberts
Aug 20, 2019 07:13am
Karachi could have been one of the leading cities of the world. In 1947, all the infrastructure, etc. that the British developed was already in place on which to build. Unfortunately, a combination of mismanagement, the absence of urban planning, corruption and fanaticism have taken their toll. Karachi should not be allowed to continue on this downward spiral.
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zafar Ali
Aug 20, 2019 08:49am
PTI Performance during it's one year is minus zero in every field, every-talk about achievement is drama. A lot of useful time is being wasted on Shaif and Zardaries and govt money is spent on their welfare even now. The status-co has deepened and people are loosing hope of Tabdeely which now it seems was a joke and the simple minded people of this country are being deceived as before so no change has occurred. One change has occurred wherein the savings of all poor people have also been looted in the economy by de-valuating rupee and thus punishing them for vote to PTI. Banks are being looted on daily basis showing very poor security level and so call change in police service who are perhaps looting directly.
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Aug 20, 2019 09:37am
The writer is chairman, Department of Architecture & Planning, NED University, Karachi. That's why he doesn't even know that there is PPP Govt. in Sindh. Please wake up Mr. Chairman, what will be the future of our new generation, if your mind is sleeping.
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Aug 20, 2019 10:59am
Good article. But you have answered your own question. No one, including PTI can change Karachi's destiny or for that matter Sindh's destiny, until they can form government in the province. The province's corrupt rural elite has a stranglehold on all the institutions of the state and run an extremely tight ship to ensure their own control and benefit. The stranglehold extends to the entire rural population who are kept hostage by illiteracy, poverty and parochial sloganeering. The cycle is extremely tough to break and thus urban centers in Sindh will continue to suffer as the rural elite will not allow them any financial independence lest they perform like they did under Mustafa Kamal and Niamatullah Khan.
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A true fact
Aug 20, 2019 12:43pm
@Hyder Ali, PTI has no jurisdiction in Karachi. Please take your references and requests to your elected leaders of PPP. Live under the bhuttos and forever vote them because they will speak Sindhi and khan won’t.
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Aug 20, 2019 12:56pm
Why not check PTI performance in other provinces? They are incompetent and now talking about governance in Karachi. Please keep them away.
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Rabia Anum
Aug 20, 2019 03:17pm
@Hyder Ali 0/ mean 100% performance??
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