Neither was Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan’s Wasim Akhtar, the last elected mayor of Karachi, nor will Pakistan Peoples Party’s (PPP) Barrister Murtaza Wahab, the newly appointed chief of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC), be responsible for the city’s garbage, water and sewerage woes as none of these key civic problems are domain of the KMC.
As the KMC administrator, Wahab will more or less enjoy the same powers as Akhtar did, but his edge will be his affiliation with the Sindh government, due to which he is expected to deliver better results.
Critics of the Sindh government’s decision, however, believe that the appointment of Wahab as the KMC administrator will be nothing but optics until the government goes for the bold decision to empower the corporation.
Dr Noman Ahmed, NED University architecture and planning department professor, is of the view that unreasonable expectations have been set with Wahab’s appointment. In his four-year tenure that ended last year, Akhtar continued criticising the PPP-led Sindh government for not devolving local government functions to the KMC but rather taking more than half of its functions and revenue collection departments away.
After the 18th amendment, the provinces were made autonomous in several areas but they largely failed to delegate powers to the local governments. If the situation remains as it is, Wahab will have no powers in functions falling under the jurisdiction of the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA), master plan department, Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB), Lyari Development Authority (LDA), Malir Development Authority (MDA), Sindh Solid Waste Management Board (SSWMB) and Sindh Sanitation Board. This means that neither was Akhtar legally responsible for the issues of garbage collection, water scarcity, dilapidated sewerage system, and illegal constructions in the city, nor will Wahab be.
The chiefs of various civic bodies, including the managing directors of the SSWMB and KWSB, and director general of the SBCA, are under the local government ministry and in no way accountable to the KMC.
Meanwhile, the corporation has been facing immense financial crunch for past several years as almost all of its major revenue-generating departments have been devolved to district municipal corporations (DMCs), which are directly under the Sindh chief minister. The billboards and advertisements, which were earlier the biggest source of revenue for the KMC, are now under the seven DMCs of the city.
Currently, the five major revenue collection departments of the KMC are the municipal utility charges tax department, real estate department, land department, vet department and Katchi Abadi department.
Dr Ahmed pointed out that the corporation’s budget is ridiculously low. It is even lower than the budget of the Malir Expressway, he said.
Talking to The News, Akhtar said the appointment of Wahab was nothing but a political agenda of the PPP. “Without funds, he cannot deliver. Even Bilawal Bhutto Zardari cannot deliver without funds,” the last mayor asserted.
He also recalled that it had been decided in a high level meeting of Sindh Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah and other stakeholders of the city that the new administrator of Karachi would be apolitical he would be appointed with the consent of all the stakeholders.
Wahab, Akhtar said, was not only a political personality but he also did not have any experience of the local government. “I am personally not against him. Being son of the city and being able to deliver are two different things.”
However, Dr Ahmed believes that Akhtar also spent his tenure locking horns with the provincial government and failed to even serve in areas where he could have delivered such as beautifying city’s landscape.
Wahab, the academic said, could play his role in empowering the KMC, which currently had petty 18 to 19 functions in the city.
Farhan Anwar, urban planner and project manager of NGO Shehri – Citizens for a Better Environment, also believes that the appointment of a new administrator will not change much.
“The corporation is dying. It doesn’t matter who is heading it,” he remarked. “Unless a bold decision of empowering the KMC is taken, there can be no betterment.”
Advice to Wahab
Dr Ahmed believes that if Wahab distanced himself from politically contested areas and focuses on culture and sports, which are under the KMC’s jurisdiction, “he can contribute a lot.”
There are pedestrian pathways and green spaces in the city, working on which along with its sister organisations such as the Karachi Development Authority, the KMC and its newly-appointed administrator can garner attention, he said.
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