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August 10, 2017

Development for Karachi

Editorial

 
August 10, 2017

The long-running political tussle between the PPP and MQM has affected governance in Karachi to the point where most development in the city has ground to a halt in the last five years. Local representatives have lost most of the power they were supposed to have, leaving the defanged mayor, Waseem Akhtar, with less power than his predecessors. Important functions such as trash collection and roads are with the provincial government but little progress has been made in the development of the city. Now, Sindh Governor Mohammed Zubair of the PML-N has announced that a new development package for Karachi will be announced soon by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi. The preview given by Zubair hints that the package will hit the usual development themes of the PML-N. The focus would be on mega-projects like the Green Line bus transit network, a water supply scheme and an extension of the controversial Lyari Expressway. It has not yet been explained if the city or provincial government will be in charge of these projects, although funding will come from the federal government.

There is an ongoing debate over whether Karachi needs projects of this magnitude. The water supply project is certainly necessary to ensure the provision of clean drinking water in the city – especially considering recent reports on just how unusable water in Karachi is – but development initiatives like the Green Line are more controversial. Its design has raised objections from civil society, with many complaining that it would obstruct the view of the Quaid’s mazar from MA Jinnah Road. So far, all work on the Green Line has been done by the provincial government so it is not clear if the city government will be brought into the project. One reason for the greater involvement of city representatives in development projects is that they would have a better idea of Karachi’s needs. What the city is desperately lacking are functioning storm water drains, better waste management and a revival of the long dormant Karachi Circular Railway. Since most of these are now in the domain of the provincial government, commencing work on these would require the MQM and PPP to work together, with the federal government only involving itself to provide financing where needed. Governance in Karachi right now is a hodgepodge with everyone unsure of their respective authority. Sorting these issues out, rather than announcing mega-projects that may turn into boondoggles, should be the priority.