KARACHI: Federal Law Minister Dr Farogh Naseem on Wednesday disclosed that the federal government is considering taking over the administrative affairs of Karachi by enforcing a constitutional clause that he said permits it to do so.
He told Dawn that the strategic committee on Karachi was going to recommend to Prime Minister Imran Khan to invoke Article 149 for the uplift of Karachi.
“After getting approval of the cabinet the provision will be exercised and in case of any resistance shown by the provincial government we will approach the Supreme Court under Article 184(1) of the Constitution to seek a directive in this regard and if the province still shows reluctance we will file a contempt petition in the SC,” he said.
Earlier, the minister told news channels that right now it was his personal view that the Centre should take over Karachi’s affairs. Any decision was likely to be taken by PM Khan during his visit to the metropolis on Sept 14, he added.
Dr Naseem is the head of a high-powered committee recently set up by the prime minister to work out plans to address issues being faced by the residents of Karachi. The committee is tasked with suggesting short-, medium- and long-term measures for the betterment of the metropolis.
Subsequently, the panel in its meeting formed a 12-member Karachi Strategic Committee with six members each from the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan (MQM-P) — the two opposition parties in Sindh.
Sindh won’t accept the ‘unconstitutional’ move, reacts provincial minister
The ruling Pakistan Peoples Party in the province has already criticised the formation of Dr Naseem-led committee as Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah said he had neither been consulted nor taken into confidence on the move.
The law minister, who is an MQM-P senator, talked to different news channels, saying that Karachi’s situation demanded the federal government play its role in resolving people’s problems without imposing governor’s rule or emergency.
“I do not know whether the federal government will accept my suggestion, but in my opinion there is no other solution except this [imposition of Article 149(4)] since other steps are extreme,” he said, referring to the governor’s rule and declaration of emergency.
He said Article 149 (4) was an independent article, which was retained by PPP and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz when the 18th Amendment to the Constitution was passed. He was of the view that the said article was not against provincial autonomy.
Article 149 (4) reads: “The executive authority of the Federation shall also extend to the giving of directions to a Province as to the manner in which the executive authority thereof is to be exercised for the purpose of preventing any grave menace to the peace or tranquillity or economic life of Pakistan or any part thereof.”
Asked whether the Sindh governor or the Karachi mayor would be responsible for Karachi’s affairs in case of enforcement of Article 149(4), the law minister said in a lighter vein that details would be unfolded in the days to come.
He also evaded the question whether a special budget would be allocated for Karachi if the federal government took over the city’s affairs.
Sindh minister’s reaction
Later, Sindh Information Minister Saeed Ghani joined the debate on various TV channels, saying that Article 149 (4) should be enforced in Punjab or in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where law and order situation and economy were not good as compared to Sindh. Mr Ghani said there was no need of enforcing the said article in Sindh, where situation was much better than other parts of the country.
He said the issues of garbage and sewerage did not fall within the ambit of Article 149 (4). “The federal government can only give directives to the provincial government, but it cannot take over functions of the provincial government,” he said, warning that this would undermine provincial autonomy.
He said Article 149 (4) did not give the federal government right to take over powers of the provincial government. “Some people are not willing to tolerate the PPP-led Sindh government,” he said. “People of Sindh are also part of Pakistan therefore their mandate should be accepted.”
Earlier in the day, Mr Ghani told a press conference that the Sindh government would not allow any “parallel system” to run the affairs of Karachi.
Commenting on the committee formed by the PM for Karachi, he said: “We will not allow any alternative system to be introduced in the presence of the provincial government. The federal government would have to work within the purview of the Constitution and law.”
Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2019