Wary of centre’s plan, Bilawal asserts Sindh govt’s control over Karachi

Updated 15 Aug 2020

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PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari says provincial govt will lead city’s administrative affairs; inaugurates People’s Square. — DawnNewsTV/File
PPP chief Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari says provincial govt will lead city’s administrative affairs; inaugurates People’s Square. — DawnNewsTV/File

KARACHI: Amid a growing debate over a proposed plan of the federal government for Karachi, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari on Friday made it clear that “from now on” the Sindh government would lead the administrative affairs of the country’s business capital while respecting the mandate of the local and federal governments.

The PPP chairman spoke about Karachi for the second consecutive day after Attorney General Khalid Jawed mentioned in the Supreme Court that the federal government was weighing its options for the provincial metropolis. Mr Bhutto-Zardari’s thoughts appeared quite clear about the party’s strategy to counter the moves of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government at the centre.

However, he showed his respect for the mandate of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement Pakistan (MQM-P) and its local government, which is about to complete its four-year term, talked about fresh elections and acknowledged the opposition party for representing people of Karachi for the last several years.

“We respect the local government’s mandate,” he said at the inauguration ceremony of the People’s Square built near the S.M. Law College under the World Bank-funded Karachi Neighbourhood Improvement Project (KNIP).

“This [Sindh] is the only province where [elected] local government is completing term and now the fresh elections will be held. But from now, administrative responsibility of Karachi lies with the Sindh government. The Sindh government would keep supporting the local and federal governments like we did in the past but from today the leading role in Karachi affairs will be taken ... by the Sindh government.”

Says provincial govt will lead city’s administrative affairs; inaugurate People’s Square

It would be interesting to see the reaction from the parties concerned, mainly the MQM which has been running Karachi’s local government since 2016 under its elected Mayor Wasim Akhtar who frequently lodges complaints of having no powers and funds to run the affairs of the mega city and often comes under fire for his performance.

The government of Mr Bhutto-Zardari’s party has been enjoying full administrative control over Karachi for the past 12 years. The provincial government is responsible for even many civic and municipal functions such as garbage collection, building control, master plan, water and sanitation, etc.

Says PPP brought peace to Karachi

However, Mr Bhutto-Zardari referred to a number of “contributions” and “sacrifices” his party made to bring Karachi to its current situation where the business environment had improved after years of bloodshed and violence.

“When we came to power, this city was under a serious terror threat,” he said. “We brought peace. The personnel of the law-enforcement agencies including police and Rangers laid their lives in the line of duty. We, with mandate or no mandate from Karachi, have served this city.”

“Imran Khan and his government made a number of promises but not a single one was met. From water to housing and from employment for youth to infrastructure development, you have not seen a single project in two years from the federal government,” he added.

Earlier, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah shared details and salient feature of the KNIP, which his government had initiated last year with the assistance of the World Bank to improve public spaces in the city’s selected neighbourhoods and strengthen the city government’s capacity to provide certain administrative services such as business registration and construction permits.

The chief minister mentioned the area of the ceremony near the National Museum and Sindh Secretariat, where educational and cultural zones were being constructed, including underground parking area for 400 vehicles.

He said the project, on which work had begun on March 12, 2018, was scheduled to be completed by July 31 this year with an investment of $98 million. An agreement with the World Bank was signed on June 15, 2017 under which $86m would be financed through the WB while an amount of $12m was shared by the Sindh government.

He said the sub-projects in the Saddar neighbourhood under the KNIP were being implemented.

The sub-projects comprise rehabilitation of three roads that form a triangle, upgrade of pavements, upgrade of infrastructure/burying major utility network of Dr Ziauddin Road (from Shaheen Complex to Pakistan Chowk), Deen Mohammad Wafai Road (from the Arts Council roundabout to Pakistan Chowk) and construction of sub-surface car parking space and students space/plaza on Shahrah-i-Kamal Ataturk.

Its salient features include Rs1.67 billion Re-Development of Culture and Education Area in Saddar Downtown project.

Published in Dawn, August 15th, 2020