KARACHI: Declaring that the people of Karachi will not pay any municipal tax planned to be collected via electricity bills because of the city’s deteriorating sanitation and sewerage conditions, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan on Friday warned K-Electric not to enter into any agreement with an “unelected administration” of Karachi.

On Sept 8, Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah had held a meeting with Karachi Administrator Murtaza Wahab and officials of KE in which a plan to collect two taxes on behalf of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) from citizens of Karachi through their monthly K-Electric bills was unveiled.

The CM had said Rs100 and Rs200 would be charged in the head of fire tax and conservancy tax in the KE bill from the power utility’s 2.56 million consumers.

The move drew sharp criticism from opposition parties in Sindh as they not only rejected the collection of any such tax by KE, but also questioned the performance of the Pakistan Peoples Party-led provincial government that has been ruling the province for the past 13 years.

On Friday, former Karachi mayor and senior MQM-P leader Wasim Akhtar told a press conference at his party’s temporary headquarters in Bahadurabad that only an elected local government set-up can sign an agreement with KE or any other entity as unelected administrator was just a stopgap arrangement and he cannot do any such thing.

Why Karachi is being singled out for such tax collection, asks MQM-P

Seeks centre’s help

Mr Akhtar said if the tax was made part of electricity bills then the KE would also apply “illegal” service charges. “This is an attempt to force people to pay this tax along with KE bills or face electricity disconnection.

“I warn the K-Electric to refrain from doing it,” he said, demanding that the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf-led federal government take measures to stop KE and Sindh government from signing any such agreement.

Questioning the rationale behind targeting only the citizens of Karachi, the former mayor asked the Sindh government why it was not planning to levy and collect similar municipal taxes from all across the province, especially interior of Sindh.

He said the provincial government was doing no development works in Karachi and all it wanted was to increase the burden of taxes on the already overburdened people of the metropolis.

Mr Akhtar said that the people of Karachi who were living within the jurisdictions of six cantonment boards were already paying conservancy tax to their respective cantonment administrations.

Call to release KMC’s OZT share

Recalling the history of the conservancy tax, he said that it was levied by the now defunct City District Government Karachi between 2006-2010 when the functions of water and sewerage, solid waste management, master plan, etc were its functions and the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board was under the elected mayor.

He said majority of these functions were snatched by the provincial government under its Sindh Local Government Act of 2013 and when he became Karachi mayor in 2016 the function of garbage lifting was not even his responsibility.

“People of Karachi will not pay such taxes until the sewerage system, transport and garbage lifting is improved,” he said.

He said that the Sindh government was not fully paying KMC’s share in the head of Octroi Zila Tax (OZT) and even today billions of rupees was outstanding against the provincial government.

The former mayor said if the Sindh government was sincere in making the KMC financially viable then it should release the outstanding OZT share.

Slams PPP for ‘provincialising’ city’s graveyards

He criticised the PPP government for ‘provincialising’ the city’s graveyards by snatching the function to regulate them from the KMC by creating a provincial body.

“The graveyards’ authority is created to sell the lands of cemeteries,” he alleged.

He said that rampant corruption could be gauged from the fact that parks constructed by the KMC during his time were being commercialised by the current set-up.

The MQM-P leader appealed to the chief justice of Pakistan, army chief, president and prime minister to take notice of the injustices being meted out to Karachi and its people.

Published in Dawn, September 11th, 2021

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