HYDERABAD: The Provincial Transition Cell (PTC) has disagreed with Hyderabad Mayor Kashif Shoro on the issue of distribution of immovable properties of Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (HMC) worth multibillion rupees to its nine newly created towns.
The mayor wants the HMC to retain all its immovable properties whose exact number remains unknown to date. The PTC, in its Sept 11 response to the mayor’s relevant letter, drew his attention to Section 4 of the Sindh Local Government Act, 2013 which speaks about ‘succession’ and it clearly states that the council established under the Act “shall succeed rights, assets and liabilities of council…” According to the Section 9 2(b), council shall, to the extent and in manner specified in notification, be successor of council so divided or reconstituted. “Argument to hold possession of immovable properties by HMC and not to be distributed among newly established Town Municipal Corporation (TMCs) is not substantiated,” stated Deputy Director (Technical) Provincial Local Government, Commission.
The mayor in his Sept 4 letter to the cell has contended that HMC previously comprised 96 union committees in the City and Latifabad talukas, and now it comprised 160 UCs (up by 64) and a considerable amount of liabilities has accumulated against HMC. “Gap between income and expected expenditure could be bridged through own source so earning and amount of rent of properties has a significant potential in this regard,” said the mayor.
He concluded that “in view of analytical study and as provided in section 4 and 9 of SLGA 2013 HMC intends to hold possession of immovable properties whereas moveable assets such as machinery equipment may be distributed amongst TMCs on a proportionate basis”.
Provisional Transition Cell turns down mayor’s request against distribution of properties
The provincial cell reviewed the district transition team’s report on Aug 31 and “unanimously” submitted it to the Local Government Department for further necessary action. “Your [mayor] intention/suggestion is not tenable under provisions of SLGA 2013 and directives/instructions issued by government to district transition teams/provincial transition cell. Hence application vide above referred letter is disposed of,” said the deputy director.
‘Concealment of properties’
“It is highly recommended [that] a full-fledged enquiry should be initiated to dig out properties originally belonging to HMC. It is important to highlight here [that] HMC has not provided details of liabilities,” read the Sept 11 letter by chairman of the transition team/DC Fuad Ghaffar Soomro, who has now been posted as DC Karachi Central.
In his letter to the PTC, the then DC referred to Section 117(1) which says: “A council may acquire and hold property both movable and immovable whether within or without limits of council and its section 117 (2)a says, “all property which vested in any council of which the council is the successor”.
He said the HMC had sent a booklet which contained details of properties of ‘katchi abadis’ and a few others. He complained that formal and informal meetings and telephonic conversations were made for furnishing the data about existing and defunct councils of Hyderabad district but council officers lingered on the matter. “Nevertheless properties details of HMC were fetched from various sources. In the past, taluka-wise directories (by no means exhaustive) properties were prepared which proved to be of great help in preparation of this report,” he said.
He went on to write that “ostensibly there was a deliberate attempt on part of HMC to ‘conceal’ and not to provide details of immovable property for reasons best known to them”.
“Spade work by HMC done in 2022 looks more detailed and far better than one officially provided by HMC and last year’s transition proposal was not provided by HMC to the transition team but it was obtained through sources,” he said.
DC Soomro claimed that the list of properties not included in information provided by the HMC was compiled by the transition team through reliable informal sources and “there is strong likelihood there might be numerous other properties not mentioned in the list”.
New HMC composition
HMC now has 160 UCs as the present municipal corporation comprises Hyderabad district’s revenue limits contrary to previous territory that covers three talukas -- City, Latifabad and Qasimabad. Now the district council has become defunct and its falls within HMC/TMCs.
According to available figures, 15 properties of defunct Hyderabad district council were distributed equally among TMCs Tando Fazal and Tandojam; 16 properties of defunct municipal committee Tandojam would go to TMC Tando Fazal (one) and TMC Tandojam (15); four properties of defunct town committee Husri would go to TMC Sachal Sarmast.
Defunct Municipal Committee Qasimabad’s 55 properties would go to TMC Qasimabad (26); TMC Hussainabad (21) and HMC (eight). Among HMC’s properties, it would retain 153 properties and rest would go to other towns. These included TMC Mian Sarfaraz’s 62 properties which is highest number of assets among the nine towns. TMC Paretabad would have 20; TMC Sachal Sarmast eight; TMC Latifabad 14 and TMC Nerunkot seven.
“HMC was deprived of its valuable property during the last transition of 2001,” then DC’s report said while alluding to the Musharraf-era devolution of power. Thus, to avoid repeat of last transition and protect valuable properties worth billions of rupees, a fully-fledged inquiry should be initiated to dig out properties originally belonging to HMC.
Action against official recommended
The report recommended removal of and disciplinary action against Ubaidullah Siddiqui, regional director local government department for not offering any assistance during the process and showing highly unbecoming and unprofessional attitude.
“HMC now has a larger area when compared with past composition of HMC thus it needs to retain all properties. Final decision on this matter is awaited. TMCs can run their affairs through taxation measures instead of holding properties. HMC has some open plots, shops, markets etc,” said Mayor Shoro while talking to Dawn.
Published in Dawn, September 17th, 2023