Murtaza Wahab has quit the post of Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) administrator after just 13 months on the job, albeit with a full term’s worth of controversy. Even before taking charge, Wahab, a PPP leader, had become controversial as the PTI and MQM — the largest opposition parties in Sindh — had been pushing for a neutral or apolitical person to be appointed to the post. However, this was not required under the law, and the ruling PPP’s choice to go with a party loyalist was completely legal, if not quite ethical.
Wahab cited his own health problems and “impediments” created by “some people” as the reason he was quitting, while claiming he did his “level best to resolve the problems of” the country’s largest city and its main municipal corporation. It appears the final straw was the Sindh High Court’s decision earlier on the same day to stop the KMC from collecting a utilities tax that was tacked on to citizens’ electricity bills. Wahab disagreed with the decision in a press conference and noted that the money was needed to pay for flood relief and rehabilitation. He also criticised his predecessors and opposition party leaders, noting that he was the one who was answerable to citizens suffering due to the floods.
At the same time, Wahab’s list of achievements was less than extensive. While he was able to significantly increase revenue generation, service delivery and internal management remained spotty. Even before the floods, Karachi was considered one of the world’s least livable cities, and water supply is still controlled by ‘mafias.’ Under Wahab, the KMC was also behind the curb in removing encroachments, with most action only being taken on court orders, while the proposed expansion of emergency services had been moving at a crawl. Even simpler things like maintenance of roads and streetlights were not moving at an acceptable pace. Still, given the extent of the rot in KMC, whoever succeeds Wahab will also have an uphill task, which is not necessarily Wahab’s fault.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 28th, 2022.
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