• Bureaucrat Dr Saif appointed new head of KMC
• PTI terms move ‘pre-poll rigging’, vows to challenge it in court

KARACHI: As a result of an understanding between the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party and Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, a senior bureaucrat replaced Barrister Murtaza Wahab as administrator of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) on Thursday.

The key decision came just five weeks before the date of much-delayed local government elections in Karachi and Hyderabad divisions.

A notification issued by the Sindh local government secretary said that Dr Saif ur Rehman, an officer of BPS-20 who was serving as principal secretary to the Sindh governor, appointed as Karachi administrator with immediate effect by accepting the resignation of Barrister Wahab that he tendered in September after the Sindh High Court issued a restraining order against collection of a controversial tax through electricity bills.

Some political observers believe that by appointing a civil servant as the city administrator, the ruling PPP has tried to kill two birds with one stone as the MQM-P had been demanding that the key post be given to a person of its choice for which it forwarded the name of its deputy convener Abdul Wasim.

‘Apolitical administrator on parties demand’

Barrister Wahab, who is also the spokesman for the Sindh government as well as chief minister’s law adviser, said that a non-political administrator was generally demanded by political parties and the move was expected to be welcomed by all stakeholders.

“From Jamaat-i-Islami to Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, we all know everyone was aggressively demanding a non-political administrator for Karachi,” he said while speaking to Dawn. “I think that all the parties should be happy with this decision.”

He said he was informed on Thursday that the resignation he gave in September had been accepted. “So it’s a positive move and I think that Dr Saif would continue to serve till next local government elections”

The Election Commission has fixed January 15 for the local government polls in Karachi and Hyderabad divisions.

Barrister Wahab was appointed as the Karachi administrator in August 2021 to look after the administrative and municipal affairs of the city before the local government elections.

However, the decision to appoint a political administrator had triggered a strong reaction from the then PTI-led federal government and its allies. While serving as the Karachi administrator, Barrister Wahab continued to serve as the chief minister’s law adviser and the spokesman for the provincial government.

Parties’ silence

However, when it comes to reacting to the appointment of Dr Saif as city administrator, major opposition political parties, like Jamaat-i-Islami and Pak Sarzameen Party, which always remained critical of the Sindh government on issues of local administration and municipal organisations, interestingly preferred to remain silent on the new appointment, giving the impression that they do not have any serious objection.

However, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf not only criticised the move, but also ‘condemned’ the appointment of Dr Saif while calling it a ‘blatant pre-poll rigging’ and a ‘fixed match’ between the PPP and the MQM-P.

“This appointment is unacceptable to PTI at any cost,” announced PTI parliamentary party leader in the Sindh Assembly Khurrum Sher Zaman in a statement. “This appointment is blatant pre-poll rigging and a fixed match between the PPP and MQM.”

“It’s obvious that by appointing Dr Saif as Karachi administrator both parties are expecting him to accommodate them during the entire election process. We are concerned that district administrators will also be decided by the PPP and MQM, which is another dirty trick to rig the elections in their favour,” he said.

He vowed to approach the Sindh High Court to challenge the appointment and asked the ECP to “clear its position” whether it’s “part of this dirty game of pre-poll rigging or not”.

Published in Dawn, December 9th, 2022

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