Many of Islamabad’s proposed development schemes have fallen victims to the traditional wrangling and tug-of-war between politicians and bureaucracy. During a reception hosted by President Asif Ali Zardari in honour of his Turkmenistani counterpart in the presidency a few days back, I overheard two federal secretaries talking about some development schemes they did not approve even after receiving directives from the federal cabinet members.
The secretaries, including one from the Planning Division, were critical of politicians even though those sharing the table with them in the gathering attended by the president, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, federal ministers and secretaries besides foreign and local diplomats could hear them.
There is a general perception that bureaucracy has the skill to defy politicians in a way that the elected representatives cannot understand whether they were favoured or rejected.
But what is the end result of this wrangling is that residents of the capital city are facing lots of hardship due to non-execution of the development schemes. Some of the projects related to general security in the city, lingering water shortage and infrastructure development. The Islamabad safe city project envisaged installation of scanners and security cameras to prevent terrorist activities; under the Ghazi Barotha water supply project, water was to be drawn from River Indus - initially 200 million gallon per day (mgd). Besides, the conventional streetlights were to be converted into light emitting diodes system, Kashmir Highway widened and the rusty and outdated underground water supply network to be replaced.
It is believed that not only the military establishment but also the civil bureaucracy did not comply with many of the plans the government formulated for the betterment of the city.
“Most of our uplift schemes could not be implemented due to the bureaucratic hitches despite the fact that these had already been approved by the appropriate forums,” acknowledged spokesman for Capital Development Authority (CDA), Ramzan Sajid.
Due to non-execution of the development projects, people raise fingers at the performance of the civic body which is helpless against the top bureaucracy, he said.
Similarly, the common man, who does not know the inside story, is blaming the government and politicians for the lack of basic civic amenities even in the federal capital.
On the other hand, the bureaucracy believes that some of the projects it did not approve were faulty, financially not viable and kickbacks and commissions were involved in some of them.
“We have strong reasons to raise objections to some of the uplift projects because they were not feasible by any means,” said a senior bureaucrat who did not want to be named.
Following are some of the projects that have become victims to the politicians-bureaucracy standoff.
LED SYSTEM: Some 65,000 conventional streetslights in Islamabad are to be replaced by LED lights which are said to be cost-effective in terms of consuming electricity and also environment friendly.
The Rs6.5 billion project, approved by the CDA board, would be financed under a soft loan already provided by the Asian Development Bank to the government for installation of the lights in all major and small cities.
It has been learnt that senior officials of the Planning Commission were making ‘undue’ and inordinate delay in approving the project without any reasons despite instructions from the prime minister who had stated four months back: “We will give a gift of LED lights to the people of Islamabad.”
The CDA is currently paying Rs1.8 billion out of its Rs26 billion budget in terms of electricity bills and maintenance of streetlights. A sum of Rs1.4 billion is paid for power dues and Rs400 million spent on replacement of bulbs and fixtures annually.
This cost is increasing each passing year by 30 to 40 per cent, as it was Rs1.3 billion last year. In addition, the CDA is paying salaries to 400 employees working under its electrical maintenance wing. The LED system is expected to cut all such expanses by 60 to 70 per cent.
WATER PROJECT: The Ghazi Barotha project is aimed to meet the increasing demand of water in the twin cities. However, the Planning Commission is reluctant to approve the project due to its cost - Rs47 billion.
SAFE CITY PROJECT: Under this project, 23 scanners and CCTV cameras were to be installed in hundreds of locations in the city to keep a vigilant eye on suspected terrorists.
“If this project is commissioned, all road barricades laid by the police will be removed,” said the CDA spokesman, whose bosses have unsuccessfully tried many times to clear the road blockades.
KASHMIR HIGHWAY: On the directives of President Asif Ali Zardari and keeping in view future requirement of the under-construction international airport in Fatehjang, Kashmir Highway is being widened from Peshawar Mor to Golra Mor. According to the Civil Aviation Authority, the road should have to be made eight-lane on each side. However, due to financial constraints, the CDA confined the project to five lanes only. Even then, the Planning Commission raised objections and asked the civic body to keep it under four lanes. As result, the project has slowed down causing trouble to the motorists. Meanwhile, the finance division, which had assured the CDA of bearing 50 per cent of the cost of the project, has refused to provide even a single penny for the project.
WATER SUPPLY SYSTEM: The underground water distribution network laid down over 50 yeas back has become rusty and obsolete; therefore, a plan was made to replace it at a cost of Rs6 billion.
BUS SERVICE: The CDA made several plans to launch a public transport service but failed to convince the top bureaucracy on it.