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November 18, 2019

Dispute among LG representatives leaves garbage unattendedoutside Asghar Ali Shah Stadium


November 18, 2019

Photos by the author

Height of apathy on part of District Municipal Corporation (DMC) Central can be seen at Pahar Ganj Chowrangi in North Nazimabad where the famous Asghar Ali Shah Stadium is located as despite series of events and cleanliness measures taken by the federal, provincial and local governments, the issue of heaps of garbage in the area persists for several months.

Two back-to-back cleanliness campaigns for Karachi by the federal and provincial governments during the last few months miserably failed to address the serious garbage situation in the area. It is the same point where Pak Sarzameen Party’s (PSP) Chairman Syed Mustafa Kamal held a press conference near a mound of garbage adjacent to Justice Asghar Ali Shah Stadium’s wall after being notified as the city’s ‘project director garbage’ in late August this year by Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar who later de-notified him.

As the saga turned out to be a political gimmick, the area could not be cleared of garbage after that.

The Sindh government’s bid to impose a ban on littering, spitting and throwing debris in public places under the Section 144 of the Pakistan Penal Code has turned out to be of no effect as dumping of garbage continues on the road along the boundary wall of the stadium.

When The News inquired into the problem, if was found that the persisting issue is not being resolved due a political tussle within the ranks of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s (MQM-P) elected leadership in the DMC Central. According to one of the officials of the DMC, Elected Chairman of Union Committee (UC) 18 Mazhar Hussain is not following the directives of DMC Central Chairman Rehan Hashmi to clear the area of garbage.

Hashmi, talking to The News, shared that he has decided to take a stern action against some of the MQM-P’s elected UC representatives not following his directions.

Christian neighbourhood

There are two UCs, UC 18 and UC 20, being affected due to the presence of heaps of garbage which has blocked more than half of the road a few yards away from Pahar Ganj Chowrangi.

Of the 51 UCs of District Central, Pahar Ganj, which comes under UC 20, is the only UC where the MQM-P could not win in District Central in the last local government elections. A majority of residents of the area seem to be supporters of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) as candidates backed by the PPP have traditionally won the local government polls from the locality.

Pahar Ganj is the third largest Christian-populated neighbourhoods of the city. Meanwhile, North Nazimabad’s Block A, E and C, on other sides of the roundabout are considered posh blocks, mostly inhabited by Ismaili and Bohri communities.

Since 1965, the main roundabout of Pahar Ganj has been in the past a major bus station for bus route numbers B-3, 2-C, W-21, W-22 and 3. Currently the roundabout serves as the bus stop for W-21 and W-22 only and for scores of Qingqi rickshaws.

Acclaimed stadium

Right at Pahar Ganj, Justice Asghar Ali Shah Stadium is nestled some distance away from the hills of Karachi. All streets in the vicinity of the stadium are named after famous cricketers of the country.

Some days earlier, one would find piles of garbage just next to the wall of the stadium, which is arguably the second most famous cricket ground of the city after the National Stadium. However, currently the trash does not touch the boundary wall as it has been shifted a few yards away.

The amount of garbage on the road, according to Hassan Abbas, the administrator of the stadium, has reduced only to an extent that it has shifted a few yards away, that too after so many happenings related to garbage in the last few months, one of which is the collapse of one of the walls of the stadium.

After the PSP chairperson’s news conference in August at the heap of garbage outside the stadium at 2am, Abbas said, the issue got media’s attention resulting in the authorities shifting the garbage right from Pahar Ganj Chowrangi and from stadium’s wall to a few yards away.

Only one of the two roads in front of the stadium could be used by the commuters and even more than half of it is filled with garbage. It is impossible for two vehicles coming in the opposite directions, to pass through. “During school hours, vehicles remain stuck for hours,” said Abbas.

The stadium was constructed in 1993 by the late orthopaedic surgeon Syed Mohammad Ali Shah, who also served as member of the Pakistan Cricket Board, in the name of his late father Justice Asghar Ali Shah, who was a judge at the Sindh High Court. Mohammad Ali’s son, Imran Ali Shah is also an orthopaedic surgeon and MPA elected from Karachi on the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s (PTI) ticket.

As the piles of solid waste on the street continued getting larger and larger, Abbas recalled that one fine day, the amount of garbage went so huge that the entire wall of the stadium collapsed when a tractor was trying to lift some garbage away.

The stadium has held many international matches of smaller levels. “The stadium looks so beautiful with floodlights during night,” the administrator said, adding that the spectators of cricket matches at the stadium also find the sight of hills in the surrounding area amazing but of late, coming to the stadium is not a pleasant experience for many because of the filth surrounding it and the stink engulfing the venue because of it.

No space for vehicles

A lone rickshaw stands at one corner of the stadium while three women clad in black burqa cross the heap of garbage, covering their noses with their hands due to stench. A black Corolla and a Mehran come face to face as only one can pass the narrow portion of the road at a time.

After staring at each other angrily, Mehran’s driver realises that only he could give passage to the Corolla by reversing his car as many motorcycles and other vehicles have lined up behind the Corolla. “This is what we see daily,” laughed Hassan Shah who sells cow dung at a footpath where garbage is dumped. “All week, garbage from different areas of North Nazimabad is dumped here and when the street becomes invisible and it becomes nearly impossible to breathe, the DMC Central sends a truck to lift the garbage.”

An Afghani ragpicker Abdul Bari has been awarded a contract to collect garbage from around 200 houses of North Nazimabad Block C by the DMC Central. He charges between Rs100 and Rs150 a month from each house, pays Rs13,000 to the district administration and keeps the rest with him.

After emptying a sack full of garbage on the road, he sift through it for plastic, glass and other valuables for himself. “It has been a week, no one has picked up garbage from the street,” he said and added that only if the garbage thrown here is picked up on a daily basis, the situation will not worsen this much.

When asked if he was ever fined for throwing garbage on the street, he laughed and reasoned that the DMC Central had officially assigned him the task.

DMC’s internal rift

Even before the local government elections in 2016, MQM-P’s elected councillor from UC-18’s Ward-2 Akbar said, Pahar Ganj Chowrangi was designated as a garbage transfer station (GTS). After the polls, DMC Central Chairman Hashmi decided to expand it and garbage from almost the entire district started to be dumped in the area.

During the PTI and PPP’s cleanliness campaigns, dozens of trucks loaded with the trash generated by the most populated district of the city would line up to throw garbage at the roundabout. “Life became a misery in the area. People started to relocate from Pahar Ganj and other blocks,” said social activist Zahid Farooq.

As the media raised the issue, the authorities felt pressure and another GTS for District Central was formed near Nagan Chowrangi, due to which the quantity of garbage routinely dumped in Pahar Ganj was reduced, Akbar explained.

For the garbage still lying unattended in the area, he lamented that the district’s sanitation director seldom sends a truck to lift the solid waste. “The district administration wants UC to lift the garbage on its own on a daily basis,” he pointed out, adding that the UC does not have that much resources to perform the task.

Meanwhile, Hashmi said they are planning to take a strict action against their own party’s chairman of UC-18 Mazhar Hussain for not transferring garbage to the designated GTS at Nagan Chowrangi. As for the funds, he said the UCs get a small share of money from the Sindh government from which they could buy trucks and transfer garbage on a daily basis.

In a day or two, he assured that the entire area’s garbage would be relocated to an empty plot, adjacent to where the garbage is being dumped right now. The UC-18 chairman could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.