• CM’s adviser and provincial minister differ on formation of six-member body
• GDA, JUI-F reject development
KARACHI: Intervention from the highest level of the establishment over the issue of Karachi has yielded positive results as the city’s three stakeholders — Pakistan Peoples Party, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan — have agreed to take joint measures for the betterment of the country’s commercial capital.
Sources said a senior member of the security establishment flew to Karachi on Saturday to have all the three stakeholders sit together so that they could mutually find a solution to Karachi’s problem that has been troubling the top military leadership for quite some time.
Only those members of the three parties who have administrative positions either in the provincial, federal or local government were invited to the deliberations held at Governor House on Saturday night with a single point agenda of bringing improvement to Karachi’s infrastructure.
On Sunday, Sindh government’s spokesperson and chief minister’s law adviser Murtaza Wahab told the media that a six-member committee to be headed by CM Murad Ali Shah and comprising Sindh ministers Nasir Shah and Saeed Ghani of PPP, federal ministers Asad Umar and Ali Zaidi of the PTI and Aminul Haque of the MQM-P was being set up to look into the issues of Sindh, including Karachi.
The committee would be notified after finalising its name, terms of reference and other details.
In a late-night development on Sunday, Nasir Shah clarified that the meeting between CM Shah and federal Minister for Development Asad Umar had discussed only bottlenecks to carry out development works and “as far as formation of a committee for execution of uplift works is concerned no such decision was taken at the meeting”.
“Development of the city is the responsibility of the provincial government which it is doing to its best,” he said in a statement.
Nasir Shah said the Sindh chief minister along with the cabinet members concerned held a meeting with Mr Umar and his team to work out ways and means to remove the bottlenecks. He said the meeting also discussed some other issues such as removal of sludge and encroachment from storm-water drains, dumping of sludge at landfill sites, completion of schemes.
The statement said the meeting was also attended by NDMA chairman Lt Gen Muhammad Afzal, Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar and others.
The sources said the establishment also took on board some other political parties considered to be having stakes in Karachi. However, the parties apparently left out from the process, particularly the Grand Democratic Alliance (GDA) and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), strongly criticised the move and rejected it.
The sources said that Saturday’s meeting was the second of its kind as less than a week ago key representatives belonging to the provincial and city administration as well as political parties were called to Islamabad to discuss options on Karachi. Initially, they said, the PPP was reluctant to share power with other parties, but the establishment persuaded the ruling party in Sindh to agree to the arrangement.
Only on Saturday, PPP co-chairperson and former president Asif Ali Zardari had stopped his party from staging a show of strength before his appearance in a Rawalpindi accountability court on Monday (today).
A federal government source, however, said that sharing a joint platform would not mean that political differences between the parties had evaporated.
“This is not an alliance, but it will end rumours being spread deliberately that the federal government was going to take over Karachi or impose a governor rule in the province. Also, we believe the PPP will share powers since the establishment as well as the Supreme Court are watching them,” he said.
When asked what his party would gain, especially at a time when the elected local government set-up is completing its four-year term later this month, a senior MQM-P leader said it had been decided that the administrators would run the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation and other LGs would be appointed in consultation with all stakeholders. He said political personalities as well as “honest” bureaucrats would replace elected mayors and district chairmen upon expiry of their term.
Commenting on Saturday’s meeting, MQM-P convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui said a working committee, and not a special committee, comprising stakeholders had been formed and its mandate was restricted to cleanliness in Karachi.
The federation considered it important to play its role after the recent rains and, therefore, it had activated the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and the army, he added. He said that after the expiry of term of elected local government, the government should appoint a resident of Karachi as administrator.
In a video statement released on Sunday night, Sindh Information Minister Nasir Shah, who was one of the participants of Saturday’s meeting, welcomed the resolve expressed by the PPP, PTI and MQM-P for the metropolis and said the alliance would be a milestone in the development of Karachi.
“The Sindh government will welcome any party or individual who wants to play a role in the progress of Karachi,” he added.
PTI’s Karachi division president Khurram Sher Zaman said the advisory committee was in the interest of the people of Karachi and the Sindh government got a chance to change the city’s situation in consultation with all stakeholders. He said Prime Minister Imran Khan was serious for Karachi and his government reserved the right to use its options.
However, there are naysayers too.
In a statement issued on Sunday, the GDA, which is one of the coalition partners of the PTI at the Centre, criticised the “nexus between the PPP’s provincial government and mayor of Karachi” and termed it a first step towards starting a confrontation with the Supreme Court.
It, however, totally neglected the fact that the PTI is very much part of the same “nexus”.
The JUI-F, however, reacted in favour of PPP as the party in a statement said that handing over Karachi to a committee in the presence of the provincial government was an attack on the autonomy and integrity of Sindh.
“We believe this is a step forward to implement a plot to separate Karachi from Sindh,” said party leader Rashid Mehmood Soomro. “The PPP government in Sindh has failed to maintain its writ and under duress it has signed the agreement to sell Karachi.”
He said his party would announce its future course of action after consulting all political, religious and nationalist parties of Sindh.
The latest development comes against the backdrop of recent spells of monsoon rains that played havoc on the city’s fragile infrastructure, forcing the federal government to send the army-led NDMA to help the Sindh government in cleaning of storm-water drains.
Later, a Supreme Court bench headed by Chief Justice Gulzar Ahmed, while hearing a case in Karachi, lashed out at the Sindh and local governments for the city’s worsening situation and their failure to provide basic facilities to the citizens.
On Aug 13, the same bench had completely handed over the task of cleaning drains to the NDMA, asking it to remove all encroachments within three months. The court also hinted at giving the NDMA more tasks related to Karachi in future.
At the same hearing, Attorney General Khalid Jawed Khan informed the bench that the federal government had no intention to interfere in the affairs of the Sindh government but keeping in view the worsening situation in Karachi, the federal government was considering available constitutional and legal options in order to fix the issues.
Published in Dawn, August 17th, 2020