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ISLAMABAD: In a major development, the Pakistan Army troops have been called in Karachi to assist the civil administration for managing the urban flooding situation in the port city, the Inter-Services Public Relations said in a statement on Thursday.
Prime Minister Imran Khan had on Wednesday directed the military to assist the administration in cleaning up the city after a meeting with Sindh Governor Imran Ismail, who briefed him in detail about the situation created in the wake of recent torrential rains in Karachi.
Speaking in the meeting with the governor, PM Imran had said the PTI-led federal government would not abandon the people of Karachi at a time when the city was grappling with the dual challenges of coronavirus and the aftermath of recent heavy rains.
The premier said the Centre would take all-possible measures for the resolution of the Karachiites' hardships. Science and Technology Minister Fawad Chaudhry was also present during the talks.
Meanwhile, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail said that under the mandate given by Prime Minister Imran Khan, the Pakistan Army, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) and Frontier Works Organization (FWO) will work together to give relief to the residents of Karachi in view of their hardships during the recent monsoon rain spells and also due to unattended municipal waste in the city.
The Sindh governor stated this while speaking at a press conference here at the Governor's House on Thursday. The governor was flanked on the occasion by Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar, members of Sindh Assembly belonging to Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Firdous Shamim Naqvi, Haleem Adil Shaikh, Jamal Siddiqui, Aziz GG and Khurrum Sherzaman.
The Sindh governor disclosed on the occasion that Prime Minister Imran Khan had on Thursday signed a summary, which required the army, NDMA, and FWO to propose a comprehensive strategy containing both short-term and long-term measures to deal with the emergency situation in the aftermath of recent rains and also the issue of municipal waste.
He said that the three organizations would be asked to jointly act upon this strategy. He hoped that the Sindh government would render support in this regard as this step of the PM was aimed at providing relief to the people of Karachi "as this city belongs to all of us".
He said that Prime Minister Imran Khan had been much worried about Karachi as he wanted that the metropolis, being the economic hub of the country, should emerge as an international city and could be once more called the “city of lights”. He said that instead of indulging in a blame game, all the concerned stakeholders should work together to take steps on an emergency basis for resolving the problems of Karachi in a speedy manner.
He said that relief and sanitation work would be carried out in Karachi in three stages. In the first stage, waste collected from the storm water drains of Karachi would be transported to the landfill sites for its proper disposal. In the second phase, choked drains in the city would be made operational again while in the last stage anti-bacterial spray would be conducted in the city.
“This is indeed good news for the residents of Karachi as there would be no issue of funding in this regard. It is the desire of the PM that this work should be completed at the earliest,” he said. He said that the PM could not see the people of Karachi in distress as he wanted to end their suffering.
The governor said that he had been summoned to Islamabad by the PM where a detailed discussion was held on the issues of Karachi, including the causes of the problems of the city and their possible solution. He said that the recent meeting of the federal cabinet had also held a discussion on the issues of Karachi for one hour. “This is because the prime minister of Pakistan doesn’t want to leave alone Karachi under any circumstances as he (the PM) was elected by the people of Karachi,” he said.
He said that people belonging to all ethnic communities of the country lived in Karachi and the city was regarded as Mini Pakistan. “We want to make it once more ‘Uroos-ul-Bilad’ (bride of cities) where there is no presence of unattended piles of waste and garbage and rather Karachi should give the look of a city of international stature. For this cause, I’m ready to go to any extent,” said the governor.
He said that it was his desire that Sindh chief minister should join hands with him in implementing his vision. He said that he had held a meeting earlier in the day with the NDMA chairman, Karachi mayor, and concerned legislators while a similar meeting would also be held in the following day to discuss the issues of Karachi.
He said that he had no personal desire to take credit for any such work for the city as he wanted that this work should be done while rising above all the political affiliations. He said that the PM had also asked the concerned lawmakers of the city to remain present on the ground to personally supervise the work to be done to provide relief to the people of Karachi in the minimum-possible time.
Responding to a question about people illegally living on the encroached upon land of drains in the city, the governor said that it was a humanitarian issue and alternative place for their resettlement had to be provided. In this regard, he would talk to the Sindh government.
To another question, the Sindh governor said that the Sindh government had been requested to provide land for the PM's Naya Pakistan Housing Scheme to be built in the province. Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar said the implementation of 140-A would be the only way to resolve the issues of the country's biggest city.
A day earlier, the Sindh High Court (SHC) had summoned officials from the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation and mayor's office and expressed its indignation over negligence following the heavy rains in the city that caused drains to overflow and loss of lives and property.
The SHC was hearing a petition related to the drain and sewerage system of the city’s Central District, when Justice Khadim Hussain Shaikh questioned the authorities' performance in the city. In his remarks, the judge said the entire city became inundated during rains due to debris across the metropolis clogging the drains. "It is a tragedy that no one has the realisation of [the stranded water problem]. Karachi drowned [during the torrential rainstorms] due to illegal encroachments and lack of proper garbage disposal," said the judge.
"Every institution blames each other when it comes to taking responsibility,” he added. “Did anyone see that the vehicles in Karachi were completely flooded? And the people could not take their children out of their homes. During the rains, people’s homes got destroyed," Justice Shaikh said.
Meanwhile, Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah on Thursday held a meeting with Chairman of the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Lt General Muhammad Afzal here at CM House. The meeting was also attended by Sindh Information and Local Government Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah. A brief statement issued by the CM House said that the meeting discussed the situation in the city due to recent rains in Karachi. No further details of the meeting were provided by the media section of the CM House.
It is worth mentioning that the NDMA chairman had dashed to the city on the instructions of Prime Minister Imran Khan to launch emergency relief work by his authority in the aftermath of recent spell of heavy monsoon downpour in the city.
Earlier in the day, the NDMA chairman participated in a meeting with Sindh governor, which was held to discuss the issues of Karachi. The meeting was also attended by Karachi mayor and lawmakers of the city.
Meanwhile, attending a function, Sindh Information and Local Government Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah said that they would welcome if the National Disaster Management Authority wanted to do relief work in the city in the aftermath of rains. “The Pakistan Army is a source of pride for us,” said the Sindh information and local government minister while giving reaction to the announcement of the prime minister that both the Pakistan Army and NDMA would work together to do rain-related emergency work in the city.
He said that a transparent procedure had been adopted to do de-silting of the storm water drains in the city and contractors of this job would be given payments by the government after completion of the task. He said that an improved procedure had been adopted this time to do de-silting of the storm water drains in Karachi this time.
He conceded that the residents of District Central of Karachi had faced most of the issues in the aftermath of the recent rains in the city. He said that loan facility had been given by the World Bank for bringing an improvement in Karachi. He said that a team of the World Bank had reached the city for the purpose after delay due to the coronavirus emergency.
He said that in the past the PM had failed to overcome the crisis situations in the country. “We all know very well about the importance of Karachi as we will continue to raise voice for the city. We are always available to do public service for the city,” he claimed.
The minister claimed that municipal agencies had been doing their work in the province of Sindh only and elected municipal leadership was not active in any other province except in Sindh. He said that in the past, situation in the city had become adverse in the aftermath of heavy rains.
On the other hand, Sindh Law and Environment Barrister Murtaza Wahab expressed surprise and displeasure that Prime Minister Imran has taken cognisance of rains in Karachi after the passage of four days of the last spell of monsoon downpour in the city.
In a video message issued on Thursday, the Sindh law adviser, who also acts as the spokesman for the Sindh government, said that accumulated rainwater had been drained out from the city while related hardships in Karachi had been resolved to a large extent. He said that the PM had finally become concerned about the city but after much delay.
He said the federal government had realized the situation in Karachi when the emergency work in the aftermath of rain in the city had almost come to an end. "Was the Sindh governor seen anywhere on roads of Karachi during the rain spell in the city?" The Sindh law adviser said that federal ministers, MNAs, and MPAs belonging to the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf were seen nowhere during the rain spell when people of the city were facing problems.
He said that the PTI’s federal government had realized that they should do something for the problems of Karachi when the troubled situation in the city in the aftermath of rains had been resolved to a large extent. He said that double standards and hypocrisy on the part of the PTI had been fully sensed by the people of Karachi. “Karachi is seen by them merely as a factory to collect donations,” he said.