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September 15, 2019

Who cares for Karachi?


September 15, 2019

A full-fledged game of power politics has broken out over the garbage strewn across Karachi. With the power lines now firmly drawn, Federal Minister Farrogh Naseem has said he will table a suggestion before the special 'Karachi Committee' set up by Prime Minister Imran Khan on imposing Article 149 on the provincial capital and thereby granting the federal government control over the city. The provision of this article is essentially intended to deal with a complete breakdown of law and order or an economic emergency. While there have been previous suggestions of governor’s rule or direct federal control in Karachi, this article has been rarely used in Pakistan’s history. The citizens of Karachi are hapless as this battle breaks out. No one party seems directly concerned about their plight; only about victory for themselves. The PPP, which has said this step is an act against Sindh, has demanded fresh elections. Bilawal Bhutto Zardari has also warned of danger to the federal government if Sindh were challenged. The PPP does not however explain why it has left Karachi almost completely abandoned since it began its rule in 2008.

The MQM, the other main player in Karachi with Waseem Akhtar from the party currently serving as mayor, has of course been playing its own political games – the latest of these involving the garbage issue. As a new player in the game, the PTI needs to show it can make things happen – but using Article 149 for this will not go down well with the people of Sindh and is essentially an undemocratic measure damaging provincial autonomy. Parties have already claimed it has become irrelevant under the 18th Amendment and the matter could well end up in an ugly court fight.

Karachi's PTI members had made some attempt to begin a cleaning campaign, but it was hardly a success. One of the main problems appears to be the lack of money. There have been similar tussles over the release of funds before in the city. So, Karachi remains essentially abandoned – badly kept and desperately in need of help. No one is coming forward to genuinely save it amidst the political one upmanship being displayed. Suggestions that all parties sit and talk together could have led to something literally healthier for the air of Karachi. But this is now highly unlikely with all parties out in battle gear and seemingly unwilling to move towards discussion or dialogue.

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