City suffers with local govt in disarray

Amid delays in LG polls, reshuffles and favouritism, civic issues remain unaddressed


Naeem Khanzada December 15, 2020

The metropolis is in chaos - or so it would seem to a person visiting Karachi for the first time. Here, the roads are broken, the local administration has been unable to control the prices of food items, there is no proper solid waste management and civic development seems to be in constant limbo.

The situation, however, isn't surprising for the city's residents, aware of the ad hoc manner in which it is being run by what appears to be local government officials in a game of musical chairs, following delays in LG polls.

The city's deputy commissioners (DCs) have been given the additional charge of district administrators - posts that were long vacant. As a result, it has become difficult for them perform their duties well on both ends.

According to sources in the Sindh Local Government Department, officials having to serve two posts simultaneously is one of the reasons why progress on multiple civic matters is halted.

"No measures are being taken to repair broken roads and remove encroachments," an official told The Express Tribune on the condition of anonymity.

He cited the example of the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) additional secretary being given the additional charge of the SBCA director-general. "He had already been given multiple additional charges and now, he was also made the SBCA director general, the same way DCs have been given the additional charge of district administrators," he complained.

Other sources in the department claimed the Sindh government was "not serious about improving the Karachi's condition," accusing the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party of appointing favoured individuals to different posts in the local administration.

"It's not that there are no capable individuals in the bureaucracy; it is just a matter of favouritism and Karachi's people are paying for it," remarked an official.

Delays and reshuffles

Sindh's LG system seemingly went for a toss when local bodies completed their four-year constitutional term in August this year.

According to the official notification, the service period of the elected LG representatives ended on August 31, when all local government councils stood dissolved.

Meanwhile, the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) announced a schedule for the fresh delimitation of constituencies for the LG elections, with delimitation committees set up to prepare the preliminary lists.

According to the law, the Sindh government has three months to hold these elections from the day the local bodies' representatives step down. It had appointed administrators in the place of city mayors until the new LG elections were held.

However, when the ECP's move to assign the delimitation of constituencies to the committees was challenged in the court, the polls ended up being delayed despite the completion of the three-month period. Petitioners have also argued in court that fresh LG elections cannot be held until the final census results are released.

In the meantime, there seems to be a continuous reshuffle underway in the LG department.

In September this year, the Sindh government issued an official notification to appoint administrators in LG bodies across the province. According to the notification, Iftikhar Ali Shallwani - who had been serving as the city commissioner - was appointed as the Karachi administrator.

Later, Sohail Rajput was appointed as Karachi commissioner, only to be soon removed from the post, with Shallwani being handed the additional charge of commissioner once again.

However, in a recent development on Saturday, the provincial capital's bureaucracy appointed a new city administrator and commissioner.

The existing Karachi commissioner and administrator, Iftikhar Ali Shallwani, was removed from the posts and directed to report to the Services, General Administration and Coordination Department (SGA&CD), in a notification issued by the department.

Meanwhile, Laeeq Ahmed - the excise, taxation and narcotics secretary - was posted as the city administrator, and Navid Ahmed Shaikh from the SGA&CD was posted as the city commissioner, both with immediate effect.

Published in The Express Tribune, December 15th, 2020.

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