KARACHI: Speakers at a seminar on Monday demanded that the Sindh Local Government Act 2013 be amended and the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation be made empowered so that it functioned as the chief civic authority of the city.
They also demanded that the KMC be made part of the Provincial Coordination Implementation Committee (PCIC) so that the city was able to benefit from the Rs1.1 trillion package announced by Prime Minister Imran Khan.
The demands were made at the seminar, ‘Why is Karachi, Pakistan’s megapolis an abandoned city’, organised by the Karachi Citizens’ Forum (KCF).
Aggrieved citizens shared the ordeal that they went through since the Aug 27 rainfall — with hunger, job losses and damaged homes amid the Covid-19 pandemic dominating the narrative.
Welcoming the formation of the PCIC from its original three political parties to include the other stakeholders and the land-owning authorities of Karachi plus the army, the KCF urged for transparency and demanded to know who will undertake the accountability of monitoring the expenditures and execution of the programme and if the public-private partnership will include qualified urban planners and members of industry.
A civil society group calls upon authorities to conduct a new census in Karachi
Moderating the session, KCF convener Nargis Rehman stressed that 19 civic agencies needed to be included in the Karachi master plan and called for an audit of records.
She acknowledged the positive role of the army when it came to rescue and relief operations, noting that “it’s the only institution that helps when disaster strikes”.
Khalid Mehmood, a resident of Korangi, said the area was not cleaned since Eidul Azha. “The offal are lying there and then add to it rainwater. Currently, many places in the area have two to three feet of stagnant water,” he said, adding that citizens suffered huge financial losses.
A social worker from Malir, Mastajeeb Abbas, said hunger was overlooked in all relief efforts. He said the people in the area, like most parts of the city, were suffering due to Covid-19 pandemic and the rains just compounded their troubles.
“There were people trying to save TV sets which they had purchased for their daughters’ dowry,” he added.
Abdul Jalil Durrani, a local political worker from the Mauripur area, said they had to breach the Hawkesbay Road at some points to let the water drain.
“Too much water was accumulating and we had to do it. I was taking photographs of the area to mobilise some rescue operations. I saw a lady having labour pains while the entire area was surrounded by water. Mera zameer gawara nahi kiya tasweer lene ka, there was so much helplessness,” he said as the room went silent.
Haris Askani from Lyari said he was able to mobilise help. He said the area had schools but no teachers, hospitals but no doctors. “Lyari has become synonymous with gang war and this is so wrong,” he said while demanding that things must be improved in his area.
‘SBCA, Sepa responsible for Naya Nazimabad disaster’
A resident of Naya Nazimabad said his house was submerged in rainwater since 15 days.
“The army came to drain the water, so did Edhi and others. Everyone tried but gave up. We have been living in our relatives’ homes for two weeks now,” he said, adding that 30 per cent of the area was still submerged in eight to 10 feet of water.
Some members asked him if he knew there was a lake on the site which was reclaimed to which he said no. However, the forum unanimously agreed that rather than blaming the residents of Naya Nazimabad, the builders, officials of the Sindh Building Control Authority and Sindh Environmental Protection Agency must be held accountable.
Earlier, former MPA Mehtab Rashdi shared the woes of DHA residents, including her personal experience with flooding in the recent rains.
Former Sindh governor retired Lt Gen Moinuddin Haider asked why there was no planning done when there were forecast of heavier than usual rains.
“Why weren’t they planning for it? Why were they waiting for a disaster,” he questioned.
On the occasion, former Sindh governor Kamal Azfar asked that how can a repeat of this disaster be prevented in future.
Former Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) chief Nazim Haji gave a detailed breakdown of the issues and mafias that were destroying industrial areas in Karachi.
“Either we decide to suffer in silence or we speak up. We need to step out and demand our rights, not sit in the drawing rooms and talk,” he said.
The seminar noted that people were marooned in their homes in stinking sewage without electricity and gas, medical aid and proper food for weeks.
Former Nespak chairman Asad Ali Khan, Pakistan Medical Association secretary general Dr Qaiser Sajjad and stockbroker Muzamil Khan also spoke at the event.
Fresh census for Karachi demanded
Demanding transparency and accountability, the KCF noted that if the Rs1.1tr package was meant to procure a meaningful result, all loose ends must be sorted out.
The forum called for a new Karachi census along with control on migrant entry.
“Control on land developer and land development, eliminations of ghost employees and foreign consultants, utilization of our eminent urban planners, architects who have been working and advising for decades on city’s fault lines, names and responsibilities of the PCIC should be clearly delineated along with the names of the monitoring agencies, project development report should be made public and oversights such as air and coastal pollution, rain harvesting and mangrove protection must be included in the development programme,” are the other demands of the KCF.
“When the 18th Amendment was passed we welcomed the autonomy and authority given to the provinces whose assemblies and government were elected. On that very same principle of democracy we demand that the Karachi megapolis should have a Karachi Metropolitan Corporation with an elected mayor, the metropolitan corporation be given empowerment autonomy, authority, to discharge all municipal functions of the city with all the necessary financial allocations, heading the KWSB and the KSWMB and the seven Karachi DMCs and all union councils. As it is an elected body of the locals elected by the locals it would be far more effective in ordering the municipal services delivery then bureaucrats who have temporary postings and cannot relate to the problems of the local,” the KCF said in its resolution.
Published in Dawn, September 8th, 2020