A FEW days after Karachi was lashed by record-breaking rains, there is a palpable feeling of rage amongst this hapless city’s residents. This is not without reason, for in the face of a devastating calamity the people have been left to fend for themselves by those who wield power in this country.

Extreme weather events happen all over the globe, yet damage is mitigated by planning ahead and ensuring that all humanly possible measures are taken to protect lives and property. But in Karachi’s case, these measures are mostly limited to press statements — or the distinct lack of them — and the federal, provincial and local governments seem far more interested in attacking each other’s performance than in solving the city’s problems.

However, in the wake of the latest disaster, there seems to be a change in tone, with the prime minister himself paying attention to the crisis in the country’s commercial capital. On Monday, Imran Khan said he wanted a “Karachi Transformation Plan” finalised soon, while earlier he had stated that the centre would “not abandon” Karachi in times of crises.

This resolve to prevent such disasters from happening again in Karachi is commendable, and to underscore his commitment Mr Khan should visit the metropolis as soon as he can to witness the devastation for himself. Under the prime minister’s plan, the city’s key issues — solid waste management, water shortage, matters related to water and sewerage as well as transport — will be focused on.

From here on, both the federal and Sindh governments need to put politics aside and combine forces to help bring Karachi into the 21st century. The neglect of this city has gone on for decades, and this sad fact was manifested most painfully last Thursday when Karachi’s entire infrastructure collapsed and was seemingly washed away by the monsoon deluge.

Monday also marked the day when the tenure of local governments ended in Sindh. Along with coming up with a workable master plan for Karachi with the centre, the Sindh government must take the provincial local bodies law back to the drawing board. The SLGA 2013 has been a miserable failure, especially in Karachi, as the third tier has been eviscerated by a provincial government that has usurped all civic powers.

If meaningful change is to come to Karachi, the Sindh administration must give back civic powers to an elected mayor, while maintaining checks and balances on the third tier.

Published in Dawn, September 1st, 2020

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