After disassociating himself from the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Aziz Suharwardy, the last vice president of the Cantonment Board Clifton (CBC), is all set to contest the cantonment elections independently.
In 2015, Suharwardy contested and won the CBC polls on the PTI’s ticket. He was later elected as vice president of the Clifton cantonment. After developing differences with the party on several issues, he left the PTI in 2017 but retained his vice presidency as, according to him, in order to de-seat him, the cantonment rules required the board’s elected members to vote against him, which did not happen.
In 2017, he recalled while talking to The News this week, the PTI’s Karachi leadership decided to protest against the CBC over the water shortage in the area. Although the issue was very real and grave, he could not follow the party's decision as he was the vice president of the board against which his party wanted to protest. “I couldn’t protest against myself,” he said. He explained that the ground realities were very different and the CBC legally could not do anything to solve the water shortage.
Sixty-eight-year-old Suharwardy, who worked as a flight engineer in the Pakistan International Airlines for 36 years, shifted to Karachi’s Sea View area in 1984 when it was a largely deserted place with wild bushes around.
“The crime situation was so bad that the area had become a market for criminals,” he remembered, adding that every seventh day there was a major robbery in someone’s house. It was then that he was made a member of the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee of District South.
When the law and order issue remained persistent, Suharwardy formed the Sea View Residential Society. Through the society, he floated the idea of constructing a wall around the apartments and took the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) on board, but nothing materialised as the authority advised them to construct the wall at their own expense.
He recalled that General Arif Hassan was the Rawalpindi commander back then and there was a robbery at his house in Sea View where his mother used to live. When Hassan visited his mother after the burglary, Suharwardy approached him and requested him to use his influence to get security walls constructed by the DHA.
After five days, the then Defence Housing Authority (DHA) administrator called Suharwardy and informed him that the housing authority would construct the front walls and the rest would be raised through community-based funds. That was the time when Suharwardy realised he could do something for his community and he formally started social welfare work.
In 2001, each DHA phase had a separate association. He gathered them all at one platform and formed the Defence Association Coordination Committee (DACC).
In 2006 and 2007, he said, he made the CPLC Neighbourhood Care Office with the help of the DHA and the Sindh police. In 2006, he recalled how there was a major urban flooding in DHA and then an idea was floated to construct storm water drains. “We had been trying to persuade the DHA for 10 years to construct storm water drains, but they didn’t,” he recalled and added how they finally did that after the 2006 flooding. “It’s another question whether those drains were faulty or not, but at least they constructed them.”
When there wasn’t any concept of cantonment elections, the CBC notified him as a civil member of its board in 2007.
Suharwardy has a deep understanding with a historical perspective about the water crisis in DHA. He explained how in the year 2008 when there were around 34,000 houses, the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB) used to supply some 7.5 million gallons of water per day (MGD), which included commercial areas as well as katchi abadis. “Over the years, the water supply dropped and the houses increased drastically,” he said, noting that there was a water supply of 6MGD in 2014.
According to Suharwardy, today there’s 3.5MGD of water supply in DHA when the total number of houses are around 70,000.
He also recalled how it was concluded that the resolution of the issue was installing a desalination plant. After 2015, he pushed the CBC to purchase two desalination plants of 0.5MGD, but the military cantonment act, he said, restrained the CBC from doing so.
In 2017, he said, he took the Hubco power company on board for the installation of five desalination plants. The matter was taken to the station headquarters and then to the corps commander, and it was decided that since the DHA was the land owner, they would set up the plant. By 2019, tenders were issued and the DHA also allocated two acres of land for the project. He lamented how the project was later put on the back-burner by the DHA.
He, however, managed to obtain a Chinese grant to establish one river osmosis plant of 50,000MGD in DHA and another had also been approved.
Suharwardy claimed to have resolved the issue of the VIP quota of water tankers for the first time in DHA’s history. He said he took up the issue with then corps commander Lt-Gen Shahid Baig, who agreed that no VIP list for water tankers should be maintained and hence the system was abolished.
When asked how, if elected, he would further serve the cantonment area, he responded that he intended to upgrade the commercial areas and improve the sewerage infrastructure by placing huge sewers underground. As for the narrow roads of DHA, he said he would make efforts to widen them as much as possible. For this purpose, he said he would pass a resolution in the CBC board to hire a consultant.
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