Saturday September 25, 2021

Call for collaboration resounds at Safe Karachi Conference

July 05, 2021

Candid political jabs were exchanged between Miftah Ismail of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Senator Faisal Subzwari of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) during the Safe Karachi Conference at a hotel in Karachi on Sunday, while the K-Electric seemed to have been given a clean chit.

The PML-N and MQM leaders put all the blame on the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), while the other speakers kept talking about the problems of Karachi and asserting that they did not want to get political.

At one point in the conference, Subzwari expressed resentment towards the courts of the country, and said that as a political party they could only talk against pieces of legislation being passed in the assembly but they could not ask the people to vote for them at gunpoint.

Ismail laughed at this comment. Smiling back at him, Subzwari said that this kind of thing had happened in the past, and it was wrong.

Ismail pointed out that the MQM’s natural alliance was with the PML-N. He explained that the grandparents of the MQM leaders were from the Muslim League, and that they should return to their parent party.

‘Transformation’

The conference was organised by the Corporate Pakistan Group (CPG) and their strategic partner KE, regarding which CPG founder Muhammad Azfar Ahsan said the power utility had its historical baggage, “but overall there has been a transformation”.

“It is the responsibility of the federal and provincial governments, along with Nepra [National Electric Power Regulatory Authority] to address the issues of KE,” he pointed out.

“If we compare KE’s performance with the power utilities of Lahore or Islamabad, KE’s performance is better,” he said, stressing that he was not saying this because KE’s logo was attached with the CPG’s.

During one of the panel discussions, Ahsan said that there would be a power outage if it rained. The power outage, he reasoned, would not be only because of the issue with a shortage of power supply.

“I am not blaming KE here,” he clarified, saying that since the past few years he had been pointing out how waterlogging after rainfall was a grave issue.

He said that in a 2017 dialogue, six political parties had unanimously agreed that Karachi’s population was a minimum of 25 million. “Today we stand with a 16 million population, as per the official census.”

He lamented that despite being the financial capital of the country, the city’s infrastructure had collapsed with the passage of time. Karachi’s share in Pakistan’s economy might be debatable, he said, “but it is true that this city generates the highest amount of tax or revenue”.

He said the issues of the city could only be resolved with the collaboration of the federal and provincial governments. The mayor of Karachi, whenever elected, has jurisdiction over only 47 per cent of the city. “There are seven districts in this city. We talk about the Provincial Finance Commission [PFC]; it should be implemented.”

Collaboration

KE CEO Monis Alvi said he was born in Karachi’s PIB Colony and used to play hockey and cricket in the streets. “The area has become so congested. The affair of encroachment is beyond comprehension.”

Speaking about his company’s performance, he lamented that the infrastructure they operate in makes it difficult for them. He said that considering the prevalent law and order as well as encroachment situation, how can they have a reliable set-up.

“How can we go and tell people not to use hook connections?” he asked, saying that cables are illegally running over their poles, and boosters are illegally taking power from their connections, and they have not allowed that. In Lahore, he pointed out, this is not a common sight.

He said he believes that everyone needs to come together, collaborate and share their ideas on the vision they have for a safer and better Karachi.

To fulfil this vision and as a part of the very fabric of the city, KE remains committed to investing around Rs140 billion in the distribution network alone in line with the company’s seven-year tariff period from 2017 to 2023, he added.

Development

Sindh Governor Imran Ismail said Karachi was a planned city, but industries left the city due to lawlessness, so the Pakistan Army and Rangers, and the law enforcement agencies need to work together to restore law and order in the city.

He said Karachi is facing sewage and garbage removal issues. He also said the K-IV Greater Karachi Water Supply Project has now been handed over to the Water & Power Development Authority. Buses for the Green Line project have been procured, and the prime minister will inaugurate it in August, he added.

He stressed that making new cities in Karachi and Lahore is vital, pointing out that the Bundal Island is the best project. He said the federal government has set aside Rs900 billion for the city’s development.

He also said he has Rs3 billion in hand, but the Sindh government has been creating hurdles in the utilisation of the funds. “Karachi runs the government; this city needs care and ownership.”

Ismail said the Centre is consulting with the provincial government for the Billion Tree Tsunami project. “For the prosperity of Karachi, as the governor of Sindh, I am willing to sit with the chief minister of Sindh.”

On the Karachi Safe City project he said it is a part of a security initiative to increase safety by controlling crime and monitoring traffic.

He added that the project comprises a range of highly integrated safe city systems focused around a large-scale CCTV installation that will transform police operations and provide a new working structure in the city, while 10,000 CCTV cameras will be installed across the city in three phases.

He also said effective digital systems are required to maintain a secure city environment for the community. “The overall objective of the project is to achieve more effective public safety incident tracking and response, reduce traffic violations and improve behaviours; and overall better transparency and automation in police operations.”

He added that the project should have been started much earlier because Karachi is one of the largest cities of the country and contributes over 70 per cent of the revenue in the government exchequer.

Karachi’s charter

Subzwari said they completely agree with the charter of Karachi shared last year by the CPG. He said the charter supported district governments, but the provincial government opted for a local bodies system.

He said the provincial municipal department has the authority to repair roads and the sewerage system. He expressed reservations on the census results, and urged the courts to immediately hear the petition filed on the issue.

Sindh Local Government Minister Syed Nasir Hussain Shah of the PPP said the PFC is dysfunctional, but he expressed hope that it will become functional this year. He said that all the parties have expressed reservations on the census results. PML-N’s Ismail commented that the city of Karachi presents an immensely difficult terrain to function in, and the increase in abject poverty will only expound these derelict state of affairs.

The CPG is a leading platform of intelligentsia in the country — including the corporate world, business community, academia, technocrats, media, tech entrepreneurs, parliamentarians, bureaucracy, military and civil society — that has proactively organised debates and discourses on subjects of national and strategic importance.

It advises and assists the government and other institutions with solutions and recommendations. In the same vein, the CPG has organised seminars, discussions and programmes on Karachi with a focus on solutions and a way forward in a constructive manner.