As the news about the formation of a committee, comprising members of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, the Pakistan People Party and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, to resolve Karachi's civic issues initiated a debate in political circles, Sindh Information and Local Government minister Syed Nasir Husain Shah on Sunday denied the formation of any committee tasked with carrying out uplift works in Karachi during Saturday’s two separate meetings held in Karachi and Islamabad.
“No committee was constituted in the meetings. Only steps to eliminate bottlenecks in the development process in the city were discussed,” said Nasir, one of the meeting participants. According to Geo News, the meetings were attended by Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah, Federal Minister for Planning Asad Umar, Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Haider Zaidi, Sindh Governor Imran Ismail, Sindh Labour Minister Saeed Ghani, National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) Chairman Lt General Afzal and Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar.
“Apart from the provincial bodies, various agencies of the federal government, such as cantonments, the DHA and the KPT, are functioning in Karachi,” Nasir said. “Therefore, various hurdles emerge when any project is initiated. This is why the chief minister along with his cabinet members concerned held a meeting with the federal minister and his team to work out ways and means to eliminate the bottlenecks.”
The minister categorically denied the constitution of any committee to carry out development works in the city. “The development of the city is the responsibility of the provincial government which it is doing to its best,” he said.
But media reports about the formation of the committee, comprising three members each from the federation and the provincial government for Karachi’s uplift work, attracted reactionary statements from major political parties.
The PTI, which won most seats in Karachi in the 2018 General Election, said the federal government had provided another opportunity to the PPP’s provincial government to resolve Karachi’s civic issues.
“We appreciate and support our top leadership’s decision to ally with Karachi’s local political stakeholders to work together for the development and wellbeing of the city,” said Khurram Sher Zaman, PTI Karachi president and an MPA.
He hoped that the committee would help resolve Karachi’s problems. “The residents have suffered for years because of unresolved basic issues, including the repair of roads and the cleaning of nullahs,” he said. “It is the last option for the PPP. After it, the federal government will use its own options for the resolution of the city’s issues of the metropolis.”
MQM-P, whose mayor Waseem Akhtar’s tenure is about to end, described the committee’s formation as “not extraordinary”.
“Such committees have been formed in the past too,” said MQM-P convenor Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui. “It is a working committee comprising the city’s stakeholders, not a special committee on Karachi.”
The mandate of the committee was only limited to cleaning the city, said, adding that the city mayor would soon brief the MQM-P’s coordination committee about the meeting. “After the mayor’s term ends, the government should appoint an administrator who is resident of Karachi and his interests are attached to the city.”
On the other hand, the Grand Democratic Alliance, a coalition partner of the PTI in the Centre, condemned the formation of the committee for resolving the city’s issues. “It is a failed plan by the PPP’s provincial government and the MQM-P’s mayor to befool the people,” it said.
“The alliance of the provincial government and the Karachi municipality seems to be part of the plan to open a front against the Supreme Court that has scolded both layers of the government for their failure in resolving the city’s civic issues,” said GDA spokesperson Sardar Abdul Rahim.
“On the one hand, the PPP government has badly failed in providing basic necessities to the people in its twelve-year rule in the province and, on the other hand, the tenure of the MQM-P’s mayor is ending in a few days,” said Rahim, who is also the Sindh secretary-general of the Pakistan Muslim League-Functional, a GDA’s key component. “How did they suddenly start caring about Karachi’s residents," he asked.
Likewise, the Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam-Fazl also condemned the committee’s formation and termed it an attack on the provincial autonomy.
“Plans to separate Karachi from Sindh have been underway for a long time and the recent formation of the committee exclusively for Karachi is a part of the efforts,” said Allama Rashid Soomro, the JUI-F Sindh’s secretary-general. Criticising the Sindh government for failing to enforce its writ, he said: "The PPP leader wearing Sindhi ajrak mask has handed over powers to the Centre to deal with Karachi’s affairs".
He said the JUI-F had decided to launch a campaign to save Sindh but it had delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic. “But now we will also save Karachi in the campaign and launch protests from Karachi to Ghotki."
The Qaumi Awami Tehreek’s Karachi chapter held a protest rally outside the Karachi Press Club where its leaders condemned what they described as "conspiracies against the integrity of Sindh".
QAT leaders rejected “all nefarious plans of the division of Sindh”, saying Sindh was the motherland of the Sindhi nation for millennia. “We believe in the integrity of Sindh and the unity of Pakistan.”
They said the division of Sindh and conspiracies against Karachi were unacceptable to Sindhis under any circumstances.
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