KARACHI: After approving carving out a new Keamari district from Karachi’s district West more than eight months ago, the Sindh government has decided to take “into consideration the public opinion” from certain areas of the new districts whose neighbourhoods are formally being converted from rural to urban areas.
The move has already attracted strong criticism from major political parties of the city which called it an attempt to divide the metropolis on ethnic lines and strengthen the political position of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).
In a recent “public notice”, the Sindh government’s local government department had invited the residents of certain union councils of the newly carved out Keamari district to come up with their reservations, objections or suggestions, if any, on the move and guide the provincial authorities to address them. It had also given them 20 days to formally file their views in writing before they were declared parts of urban areas.
‘I warn the PPP leadership that they are in fact initiating the process of dividing Sindh’
“It is mandatory to take into consideration the public opinion prior to the conversion of rural areas into urban area i.e. the union councils of District Council Karachi namely UC Mowach, UC Gabopat and UC Lal Bakhar and forming part of an urban area of newly created District Municipal Corporation Keamari as per Section 13 ‘Declaration of urban and rural areas’ of the Sindh Local Government Act, 2013,” said the notice.
The Sindh cabinet in its August 2020 meeting had approved carving out of a new district — Keamari — from Karachi’s district West, and directed the Board of Revenue to submit a detailed proposal for the creation of more districts in the province which had big populations or areas. The cabinet had approved the creation of Keamari district, out of district West, comprising four sub-divisions — SITE, Baldia, Harbour and Mauripur — with a population of 1,833,864. Keamari district will have three circles, five tapas and 11 dehs. The decision was taken in the “larger public interest”, the meeting was told.
Right after the decision, the major parties had rejected the decision calling it a political move by the ruling PPP. Following the fresh public notice from the provincial government seeking people’s reservations and suggestions, many of them plan to come up with their opinions again.
The Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, which has also challenged the move in the Sindh High Court, slammed the PPP government for carving out the seventh district out of Karachi. It contended that it was not an administrative decision, but an attempt to divide the city on ethnic lines and strengthen the political position of the PPP.
MQM-P leaders Khwaja Izharul Hasan and Salman Mujahid, who had filed an application with a party supporter from Keamari to become an intervener in the petition already pending before the SHC challenging the notification issued in September last year to notify Keamari district, called it a politically motivated decision.
They said that the decision was made without consulting the stakeholders and the people of the area, adding that the decision was made to achieve political goals by the ruling party in Sindh as the final results of the population Census 2017 had not yet been announced while the delimitation of local government jurisdictions in the province had also not yet been carried out.
The Jamaat-i-Islami, which had run the city’s local government through its elected mayor and city council, saw the PPP move as “a game” before the upcoming local bodies polls. The party’s Karachi chief, Hafiz Naeemur Rahman, said that the district would bring about no change in the lives of the people of Karachi and it was only a “manoeuvre” before the local bodies polls.
“It’s a history of the PPP government in Sindh that it always plays a game and manoeuvres things before an election,” he said. “The fresh move is reflective of the same history. The party has lost its credibility in Karachi and other parts of Sindh. Their survival lies in fanning ethnic hatred, manoeuvring things before elections and exploiting their power and misuse of authority. These conspiracies, lies and corruption will never last long.”
Former city mayor and founding chief of the Pak Sarzameen Party Mustafa Kamal also called the PPP move “a dangerous game” being staged on ethnic grounds, which would only trigger hatred and cause irreparable damage. He warned the Sindh rulers to review their decision before it’s too late and the city’s politics and peace both fell prey to ethnic hatred.
“We came with the message of peace and buried the politics of ethnicity,” he said. “The PPP is giving a new life to that hatred and politics of violence. I warn the PPP leadership that they are in fact initiating the process of dividing Sindh. This move would lead to violence and bloodbath. This should stop here, otherwise, it would cost everyone dearly.”
Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2021