KARACHI: It appears that after a recent bout of ‘gutter’ politics, Karachi has now become the battleground for ‘mosquito’ politics between major political players.
Just two days after the Karachi commissioner ordered a comprehensive fumigation drive across the city amid rising cases of dengue and malaria, the Sindh Assembly played host to a peculiar stunt. A fumigation van operated by the Jamaat-e-Islami backed Al-Khidmat Foundation decided to spray its insecticides inside the provincial assembly’s main hall, which is air-conditioned and consequently, ‘mosquito-free’ to begin with. Al-Khidmat officials also chose to film and photograph the stunt in order to disseminate footage across social media.
“Since the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) and district municipal corporations (DMCs) have failed to deliver, so they [Al-Khidmat] have taken the initiative to combat mosquitos, dengue and flies in the wake of recent rains,” JI MPA Abdul Rashid, who led the fumigation drive at the assembly, told The Express Tribune.
When his attention was drawn to the air-conditioned hall which is almost free of mosquitos, he said: “Not only 168 MPAs, 500 employees working in various sections and around 600 visitors come to the assembly hall daily. No other department is taking measures, so it was mandatory to take the lead on this issue.” He added that the fumigation inside the assembly was part of Al-Khidmat’s campaign which started after recent monsoon in the city. “We have finished the drive in various areas of Karachi and will continue it in others over the next few weeks,” he said.
Sindh Assembly Secretary GM Umer Farooq, when contacted, admitted the fumigation of the hall was carried out with his permission. “There is nothing wrong if JI or any other person does this marvelous job,” he said.
The developing ‘mosquito’ politics appear to have been triggered by a tussle between the Centre and the Sindh government over cleanliness in Karachi. Karachi Mayor Wasim Akhtar has held the Sindh government responsible for neglecting Karachi and depriving local bodies representatives from municipal powers. He insisted that KMC and DMC officials have no powers to remove garbage and supply water to the metropolis. “The provincial government has created the Sindh Solid Waste Management Board under supervision of the chief minister to collect garbage from the city. The Karachi Water and Sewerage Board works under the local government minister. So, I am left sitting idle with no powers and resources,” he said.
In response to piles of garbage lying uncollected in the city and over-flowing gutters after last month’s monsoon rains, Federal Minister for Maritime Affairs Ali Zaidi joined hands with the Karachi mayor to launch the ‘Clean Karachi’ drive. The campaign, launched on August 4, promised it would free Karachi of garbage and unclog all drains within two weeks.
But although he launched the drive with the help the army’s Frontier Works Organisation, the minister appealed for donations from citizens on social media. Meanwhile, a month and a half since the drive was kicked off, Karachi’s cleanliness problems have not seen any improvement. The Sindh government, on the other hand, has launched its own ‘Clean My Karachi’ campaign.
South DMC Chairperson Malik Fayyaz, reacting to Al-Khidmat’s fumigation stunt, said, “It’s nothing, but a political gimmick.” He insisted that fumigation efforts were the job of the KMC and DMCs, not the political parties and the provincial and federal governments. “The job should be carried out by the right people. Instead, they [Al-Khidmat] have just mined this stunt for cheap publicity.”
Fayyaz added that DMC South, with the help of KMC, has devised a plan for a fumigation dive in various areas. “There is dire need to empower us by giving us resources and authority. Political parties should not exceed their limits,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd, 2019.