MURTAZA Wahab’s name had been doing the rounds for the past several weeks as the next administrator of Karachi and on Thursday, the PPP man was officially given the job by the Sindh government. Though Mr Wahab is one of the PPP’s rising stars and one of the party’s few recognisable faces from Karachi, critics are not entirely wrong when they say that Sindh’s ruling party is playing politics by placing a loyalist in charge of Karachi, a city that is not a PPP stronghold. After all, the post of administrator is no replacement for an elected mayor answerable to the people. Ever since Waseem Akhtar’s tenure as mayor ended last year, bureaucrats have been running the city. However, over the last few years, Karachi’s condition has deteriorated considerably. Heaps of garbage, overflowing sewers, crumbling infrastructure and high crime are now what Pakistan’s financial capital is known for. Suffice to say, Karachi has become a giant dump. Comparisons are made with the Musharraf-era local government system. Though that set-up was not perfect, it did deliver far better than the system the PPP introduced, which was widely seen as concentrating powers in the hands of the provincial government. The results of the PPP’s LG system are depressing; not only Karachi but the whole of urban Sindh presents a picture of utter neglect.

Mr Wahab may be an active politician, but what Karachi and Sindh’s other cities need is a system, not personalities. While the new administrator must concentrate on fixing the highly unsanitary conditions of the metropolis — experts have said the foul atmosphere in Karachi can aggravate the Covid crisis — in the long term the Sindh government needs to frame a new LG law which is democratic in nature and devolves power to the local bodies. Citizens must not be made to plead before ministers and bureaucrats to have their streets swept or gutters cleaned. This should be the job of elected civic bodies that are run through taxpayers’ funds and are answerable to the people.

Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2021

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