Prime Minister Imran Khan on Saturday unveiled a "historic" financial package worth Rs1.1 trillion for Karachi's transformation that he said will address the chronic municipal and infrastructure issues of the country's financial hub.
The city's drainage and sewerage issues were brought into national focus last month after record-breaking monsoon rains caused widespread devastation and left dozens dead.
Addressing a press conference in Karachi alongside Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah and Governor Imran Ismail after chairing a meeting of the "Karachi Committee", the premier said the federal and Sindh governments had decided to deal with Karachi's problems "together" following negotiations.
He added that the federal and provincial governments were both contributing to the Rs1,100 billion package.
In a statement following the announcement, PPP chairperson Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari was quoted as saying that out of the Rs1.1 trillion, the federal government had allocated Rs300 billion while the Sindh government committed "more than Rs800 billion". He termed the allocation a "good start" for Karachi's development.
Noting that floods caused by heavy rains have hit not only Karachi but Balochistan, interior Sindh, Swat, and his own constituency of Mianwali, Prime Minister Imran in his address said it was decided in view of unprecedented rains that all of Karachi's issues would be tackled at once, and negotiations were subsequently held.
"I would have come [to Karachi] sooner but we had to make a structure," he said, revealing that the transformation plan would be implemented through the Provincial Coordination Implementation Committee (PCIC) under the chief minister.
He said all stakeholders will be involved in its implementation. "The army will play a big role," he added, noting that the army helps the civilian administration whenever there are floods or a calamity.
"The package we have brought for Karachi is historic," Prime Minister Imran said.
The first problem the plan will address is of water supply and the Centre and Sindh government will each work on a part of the Greater Karachi Water Supply Scheme, also called K-IV. "Our effort is to permanently solve Karachi's water problem in three years," the premier said.
He said the second problem is of encroachments on nullahs on which the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) has already started work.
"The people who will be displaced [during the anti-encroachment drive] are the poorest so the Sindh government has taken responsibility for resettling them; federal government will obviously remove encroachments," he added.
The third and fourth issues that the plan will focus on are concern the city's sewerage system and solid waste disposal. "We will make a proper system," Prime Minister Imran said.
"There is also the problem of transport. We will also complete the KCR (Karachi Circular Railway) in this package. Then roads [will be built for] BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) and other lines. We have decided to completely solve the issue of transportation and roads," he told the presser.
The premier said the Centre and Sindh had decided to solve Karachi's problems together "once and for all" through the coordination committee as residents of Karachi "have had to go through a hard time". But he acknowledged things were not all easy.
"There were different jurisdictions in different areas so implementation was difficult," he said. "That is why we have formed PCIC so all stakeholders are in one place.
"I am very hopeful that the betterment to come out of the hard times that Karachi's people have faced is that these problems will be solved."
The prime minister noted that there has been widespread destruction in the interior areas. "We will sit [with the Sindh government] and discuss how to help," he said, adding that there are high floods in Swat and Chitral too.
Prime Minister Imran said God had "put us through test before floods in the form of corona".
"A big reason for our success [in fighting coronavirus] was that we made a national coordination committee. We made a committee very quickly and it met daily, [there was] total coordination among the provinces and our decisions then were better.
"You have seen how cases are rising in India and there may be no other country that got out so well as Pakistan did," he added.
He said a similar coordination committee was made regarding locust attacks and now the Centre and Sindh had decided to work jointly to resolve Karachi's issues.
"We have a short term plan, then medium and our long term plan will not be longer than three years," the premier said of the Karachi plan.
PM vows to facilitate business community
During his visit, delegations of traders and businessmen called upon the prime minister. Besides federal ministers and the Sindh governor, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Finance Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh and State Bank Governor Reza Baqir were also present in the meetings.
The delegations congratulated the premier on his government's "successful strategy" to fight Covid-19 and lauded the concessions given to the business community, according to a statement issued by the Press Information Department (PID).
"The business community plays a vital role in the country's progress and it is the government's duty to provide all facilities to them," Prime Minister Imran was quoted as saying in the statement. He added that creating ease of doing business was his government's top priority.
He said the government had devised a comprehensive policy to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic that focused on protecting the people from illness as well as ensuring the wheel of the economy kept rolling.
According to the statement, the prime minister noted that promotion of the construction industry and affiliated fields will create employment opportunities.
He said the government aimed to bring automation in business and investment systems that will enable people to do business in minimum time and in a transparent manner.
During the meeting, representatives of the business community gave recommendations to the premier regarding promotion of exports and tax reforms, the PID statement said.
PM arrives in Karachi
Prime Minister Imran arrived in Karachi earlier today for a day-long visit to announce the financial package for the implementation of a transformation plan meant to address the city's issues and developmental requirements, according to Radio Pakistan.
The premier was accompanied by Information Minister Shibli Faraz and MNA Amir Mahmood Kayani.
During his visit, the premier met Sindh Governor Imran Ismail and Chief Minister Shah. He was also expected to meet members of the provincial assembly, according to the Prime Minister's Office (PMO).
He was also briefed about the recent situation in Karachi after the rains.
The prime minister chaired a meeting of the "Karachi Committee" upon his arrival which was attended by federal ministers Asad Umar, Shibli Faraz, Syed Ali Zaidi, Aminul Haq, the Sindh governor, the Sindh chief minister and others.
In a tweet a day earlier, PTI leader Faisal Javed Khan said the Karachi Transformation Plan was aimed at addressing the provincial capital's long-standing problems such as "choked drainage and sewerage systems, encroachments, poor waste disposal, water supply and transport".
Meanwhile, the information minister said the prime minster is determined to "restore Karachi's identity as a true industrial hub" of the country and the backbone of its economy.
"The people of the city cannot be left at the mercy of the Sindh government which has destroyed Karachi over the past 12 years," Faraz said in a tweet hours before the premier's arrival.
Minister for Planning and Development Asad Umar added that the premier will announce the "biggest development package" in the country's history for any city during his visit.
"This historic work will be carried out by the federal and provincial governments. Politics will not stand in the way of development and the people's welfare. Similar work will also be carried out in other parts of Sindh."
Earlier today, Umar also held a meeting with officials of the K-Electric at the company's headquarters. Speaking to the media after the meeting, he said the National Electric Power Regulatory Authority did not function under the federal government.
He said the power tariff was being increased "because countrywide tariff increased three years ago but Karachi businessmen took it to court so now they will pay the same tariff as the rest of the country".
On August 27, the premier had said his government would "not abandon" the city's people "in their time of crisis".
PM Imran had made the statement after a record-breaking monsoon spell wreaked havoc in the city, causing waterlogging and disrupting power in several areas for multiple days, in addition to claiming at least 20 lives.
The premier had said that the federal government was "fully cognisant" of the devastation brought about by the rainfall.
"We will be announcing a plan for a permanent solution to the problems caused by floods by cleaning of nullahs, fixing of the sewage system and resolving the huge challenge of water supply to the people of Karachi," he had announced in a series of tweets.
Karachi Transformation Plan reviewed
PM Imran had reviewed the Karachi Transformation Plan on Thursday, officials said.
According to the Prime Minister Office, PM Imran said the biggest problems in Karachi's civic matters was a lack of transfer of administrative powers to the gross-root level.
“It is the need of the hour to shift control on water supply schemes, sewerage treatment and disposal, solid waste management and the building control authority from the provincial government to the city administrator or local government to address these problems in Karachi,” the prime was quoted as saying.
Unfortunately, nobody had thought about the problems being faced by the people of Karachi in the past, he said.
The prime minister added that recent torrential rains in Karachi had not only exposed the pathetic administrative system but also created a number of problems for the people of the city.