KARACHI: Sindh should have four metropolitan zones. Cities within [those] metropolitan authorities should have integrated management and be autonomous with regard to intra-city affairs.

This was said by eminent economist Dr Kaiser Bengali in his address at a seminar titled ‘Local Government System in Pakistan’ organised online by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (Piler) on Monday afternoon.

Dr Bengali said his presentation was concentrated on basic things because unless legal and institutional framework is right, policies can’t be implemented. Giving money to the city is important, but it doesn’t mean that all the issues of that city would be resolved.

‘All cities in Sindh are in terrible condition; Larkana is the prime embarrassment’

He said any group of people functions through a social contract. When there’s no social contract, there’s breakdown of law and order. This has been observed in Karachi in the last 25 years. We need to keep an eye on the political situation in Sindh. Karachi cannot be looked at separately because there’s a social contract in Sindh and it’s important that all agree to that. Today the issue related to Karachi and the rest of Sindh is intense. There should be harmony in both.

Dr Bengali said all cites in Sindh are in a terrible condition. There are almost nonexistent civic services. Half the population of the province doesn’t get water on a regular basis; and the water that it does get is not clean. There is no proper disposal system for garbage which causes air pollution. Also, there’s nearly nonexistent public transport in all cities.

‘Larkana is the prime embarrassment’

He said Karachi is a metropolitan port city, financial centre of the country, and yet half of the city looks like a place from the 11th century. But Larkana is the prime embarrassment. The people of Moenjodaro who lived 5,000 years ago had a proper water disposal system; but today’s Larkana has sewage lying everywhere. So it’s a problem that needs to be addressed on the provincial level.

Any urban centre, Dr Bengali pointed out, requires five services on a daily basis: water supply, waste-water disposal, solid waste disposal, electricity and public transport. And all these requirements are not available [the way they should be] in Karachi. There are three reasons for it: first, these requirements are not under the control of a single institution. Second, there’s a constitutional deficiency; and third there’s political divide in Sindh.

Dr Bengali said the Sindh Building Control Authority reports to the provincial government but their control is not over the entire city. The KWSB is both local and provincial. Garbage disposal is now with the province. And no one is responsible for public transport. Road maintenance is both local and provincial. Gas and electricity are federal. What we’re seeing today in Karachi is nothing new. Only its scale has increased. Twelve years back too Defence had been submerged. Since the city has too many owners, no one owns it.

Dr Bengali said there are two chapters in the Constitution: one is on the federal government and the other is on provincial, defining their structure, function and power. But there’s no chapter on local government. The local government is like a football used by military and civilian governments as they please. If we’re to strengthen it then it’s necessary to include a chapter about local government in the Constitution defining its power, structure and function, even broadly.

He argued there are two parties in Sindh, the PPP and the MQM-P. The latter basically represents Karachi and the former the rest of Sindh. If Karachi is given a special power then it’s said that the city is being separated. And if money is being pumped into the rest of Sindh then Karachi will complain about it. Therefore, it’s important that a civic system be made for all of Sindh.

He proposed that four metropolitan zones be made in the province. If urban planning is done as per these zones then Sindh will not depend on Karachi alone for development. Cities within [proposed] metropolitan authorities should have integrated management and be autonomous with regard to intra-city affairs.

He emphasised that functions such as urban planning, housing, road construction, solid waste disposals, public transport, traffic, health facilities etc should be under the control of a single institution. As for who will manage it, he said, some subjects fall under civil administration (revenue, law and order, disaster management and regional planning and development) and some under local administration (such as urban planning, housing, roads, solid waste disposal, traffic, public transport etc).

Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2020

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