More Mayor, less Malik

Published: August 24, 2011

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Every seth organisation has one — the incompetent buffoon who, despite being a fool and inept in every conceivable way, defies logic and remains employed in a senior position within the organisation. A chamcha, he is the Boss’s right-hand man (and it’s always a man). He performs all the unsavoury tasks, thus ensuring that the boss’s manicured hands do not get even remotely dirty. All three seth organisations I worked for had this character type. So perhaps it’s no surprise that the seth Government of Pakistan has one too. How else can one explain the continued employment of Rehman Malik?

Rehman Malik is a man devoid of any credibility. Let’s look at some of his recent statements. Way back in July 2009, he declared: “Strict action would be taken (against police officers) if any incident of target killing occurs from today onwards.” Obviously this did not have the required effect because the following year he had to remind the people (and state the blindingly obvious) “the government will have a strict no-tolerance policy for target killing incidents”. Oh, that’s good to know. Did this no-tolerance work? Well, by July 2010 he was able to declare to The Associated Press of Pakistan that “target-killing in Karachi has fully ended now”. When he said he ‘now’ he actually meant a little bit later because by July of this year he was still telling Dawn that the people of Karachi would soon have a peaceful environment in their city and the government was taking all out measures to achieve the objective. On August 12, The Nation reported that Rehman Malik has said that due to effective measures taken by the government, incidents of target killings have been controlled to a great extent in Karachi. The following week, 96 people were murdered.

Watching Malik spout about “miscreants” facing an “iron hand” is like watching some perverse Groundhog Day. Repetition follows repetition. His words now carry about as much weight as an anorexic stick insect performing roza. He flies in, talks tough and flies out again. The old joke that Islamabad is 15 minutes outside of Pakistan has never felt truer. If anything, Karachiites are presently feeling that the cosseted bureaucrats and politicians are living far further. The ongoing killings highlight the urgent need for decentralisation of political power away from Islamabad to local government.

Karachi doesn’t need a Malik — it desperately needs a mayor. However, though Mustafa Kamal was a good one; he lacked real power. His remit did not cover the six cantonment boards that make up the most salubrious parts of the city and his legacy will primarily be one of bridges and flyovers. Instead, Karachi requires a directly-elected mayor with genuine power. It seems unfathomable that a city of almost 20 million inhabitants does not have a figurehead that represents the aspirations and demands of Karachi — Pakistan’s only true metropolitan city. With such a mandate from the people of Karachi, an elected mayor would have the power to hire and fire Karachi’s top police officer. The mayor and the police suddenly become accountable to the people. Presently, who exactly is the unelected Rehman Malik accountable to?

Policing and local government are interlinked. Effective local government produces effective policing. Any further public policy debate must acknowledge this symbiosis. Strong mayoral leadership can truly alter cities. Enrique Penalosa, the mayor of Bogota between 1998 to 2001, transformed the Colombian capital from a deadly, crime-ridden city into an inclusive space with first rate parks, infrastructure and transport systems. Rudy Guilani was credited with reducing crime in New York. Time Square, once synonymous for its pimps and pushers, became known for the Disney store and its Starbucks under Guiliani. Both Penalosa and Guiliani were local boys. They knew what needed to be done for their respective cities.

But none of the political parties in Pakistan are talking about direct mayors. Even the party that perhaps would have the most to gain — the MQM — has remained silent on this form of decentralisation. Perhaps, the continued omnipresence of Altaf Hussain has ensured this idea does not end up on the table. After all, no one wants to upstage the Quaid-e-Tehreek do they? Just recall how Mustafa Kamal scurried over to London after he had been named “one of the mayors of the moment” by Foreign Policy magazine. A directly-elected mayor could potentially become more powerful than the party leader.

Until the political parties can agree to urgent decentralisation, and especially the need for directly-elected mayors in urban areas, Karachi’s power vacuum will persist. And that still leaves Rehman Malik in charge. And nobody wants that.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 25th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (28)

  • Talat Haque
    Aug 24, 2011 - 8:41PM

    Ah! They can’t say that no one told them at the right time !


  • Aug 24, 2011 - 9:57PM

    you spent quite a lot of time in Karachi, were you seriously that oblivious to the fascist nature of the MQM? You expecting solutions from a party that is in effect the source of all this trouble?


  • Faizan
    Aug 24, 2011 - 10:17PM

    This article leaves alot to think about.


  • parvez
    Aug 24, 2011 - 10:44PM

    Its not the seth its the seth mindset that has to go if things are to improve.


  • Hassaan
    Aug 24, 2011 - 10:49PM

    A great article!!


    Aug 24, 2011 - 10:53PM

    An incompetent Shiv Raj Patil former Home Minister of India was thrown-out after his lack lustre performance but not Rehman Malik the IM despite his many assurances, hundreds are getting butchered on daily basis. Recommend

  • Dr. Ismail Nami
    Aug 24, 2011 - 10:53PM

    Well done George :)


  • Chengez K
    Aug 25, 2011 - 12:03AM

    George you are too naive!!!
    Don’t you know MQM has a mafia mindset……..It is amazing that U.K has given British citizenship to DON Altaf Hussain which it did not give Al Fayed….Dodhi father.
    Altaf Hussain is simply a tool in the hands of Foreign powers.When ever they want to send a message to GOP they simply use their tool
    Tragically the second so called power block of Karachi ANP is also controlled the same way whose DON Asfandyar Wali is also normally hiding in western countries.
    With power structure like this can you expect a fair independent mayor to survive a single day?Recommend

  • Karachi ka machhar
    Aug 25, 2011 - 1:30AM

    People who really don’t know Karachi think that the MQM can ousted easily. The truth is MQM has grassroots level support in the streets of Karachi. It is Karachi’s biggest stakeholder and doing anything without prior approval from London can be a death sentence. Saying that, the MQM needs to mend its ways and learn to live with tolerance.


  • Jafar
    Aug 25, 2011 - 2:32AM

    I agree with George, we need a Mayor with full power who has police under him and that would be the best way to tackle crimes in depth. Local Government system in full implication would definitely see this city flourishing and Mustafa Kamal is the best person for that job!


  • Aug 25, 2011 - 3:07AM

    George, whatever Rehman Malik’s doing, he won a Nishan-e-Imtiaz for it. To win a Sitara-e-Imtiaz, the body count would have to double! That’s how things work here Mr. Fulton. And if the body count triples, mind you, the award would then be renamed to “Sitara-e-Rehman”!


  • Arifq
    Aug 25, 2011 - 3:26AM

    Dear George, some very good points made in this article but any analysis devoid of historical perspective generally leads to erroneous conclusions. Main problem for Pakistan including Karachi is the free flowing firearms, now anyone who has lived in Karachi would tell you that there are no ammunition manufacturing facilities in Karachi or surrounding areas. So whe are these guns coming from? Common sense would tell us the only institution responsible for procurement and distribution is the Pakistan army and it’s ancillary operations. Other source is the western borders of Pakistan starting the Afghanistan rebellion in the early eighties and their traditional carrying of arms. Add to this the complete failure of the state to provide basic amenities and you have a cocktail of complications now known as Karachi today. Drugs and guns are smuggled through Karachi but their origins are the western borders of Pakistan, you dont have to be a genius to know who is backing these groups, some call them Taliban, Jihadis but the correct terminology is “smugglers”, “drug barons” and “terrorists”. Question that needs to be asked who is backing these people? Unfortunately, all political and establishment interest groups have their fingers in the pie. Therefore, we should not look for the messiah to lead us out of the woods, pray and hope for a miracle cause in this hamam all are naked.


  • Shahid
    Aug 25, 2011 - 8:13AM

    MQM is a gang of criminals, giving it administrative and policing power has destroyed social and political fabric of Karachi, making other ethnicity as slaves. They are involved in Bhata, killing and land grabbing. You can not advocate to legalize their crimes!


  • syed
    Aug 25, 2011 - 8:17AM

    George-Very well written.
    We wish our rulers could understand this simple mechanics- A metropolis with diversified interests of key players -PPP,MQM,Jamait islami & ANP with tactical support of PPP will never be able to produce a good governance- All of them have their interests

    PPP & ANP will never like to see this city flourish and prosper since they do not own this city and have their heart and home.hundred of miles due north.


  • Haider Hussain
    Aug 25, 2011 - 9:18AM

    @Imran Khan:
    ANP is the real culprit…mostly consisting of illetrate and ill-mannerd people. Karachi is MQM’s city, why would they want to create trouble…. Situation worsened the most when this guy named Shahi Sayyed came in.


  • SH
    Aug 25, 2011 - 10:50AM

    You have no right to comment if you dont live here and are not effected by anything…I just fail to understand why ex-pats love to comment on Pakistan and show their concern when it is not needed…And PLEASE you do not have a stake here anymore hence your analyses cant be more irrelevant


  • Aug 25, 2011 - 12:01PM

    Excellent piece George, but to be honest with you Karachi’s problem is Zulfiqar Mirza not a mere statements of Rehman Malik.


  • Lobster
    Aug 25, 2011 - 12:03PM

    Please understand his point that Karachi needs a Mayor, not necessarily from MQM. Karachitees elected Naimatullah and despite his age and resistance from MQM, the guy did wonders too. Give the people of Karachi authority to elect their ruler, we don’t want imported but useless items like Rehman Malik!


  • Nasir
    Aug 25, 2011 - 12:23PM

    Rehman Malik and Mustafa Kamal like one man with two faces.Rehman Malik is doin nothing and Mustafa Kamal is doin every thing.i dont understand why west only see terrorist with beard and sponsered by fundametalist but cant see terrorist with out beard and granted asylum by Londoner.


  • Ali
    Aug 25, 2011 - 1:29PM


    His wife and children are form Pakistan he himself has lived there and has nationality. Just becasue you no longer live somewhere does not mean you do not have a stake in it. Off course anyone attached to Pakistan has a stake in it and its wellbeing. In fact ex pat Pakistnai people can provide a different out of the box view of our country. You should stop being so narrow and close minded! Right now Pakistan needs all the help it can get!


  • amjad bhatti
    Aug 25, 2011 - 1:43PM

    Sir ,

    You missed the real problem . Karachi problem isn’t an adminstrative problem its problem of one political force not willing to accept political reality of others . If change of face would have been a solution , then there wouldn’t had mascare in street of karachi in 12 May 2007 , when mustafa kamal was undisputed prince of karachi.


  • AK
    Aug 25, 2011 - 2:51PM

    What we need is more George Fultons, and less Baitullah Mehsuds in this country.


  • Himdu Rajput
    Aug 25, 2011 - 5:14PM

    One of the patent holders for the iPod is Imran Chaudhri. Paksitanis should respect and be proud of him than worshiping these loony Islamic Jehadis.


  • Muzammil
    Aug 25, 2011 - 6:54PM

    Well said George,, but the problem with his unfortunate city is nobody owns it but wants to derive benefits from it.He is right that Mustafa Kamal’s tenure was the best in recent history and now some people want to undo that good work.Recommend

  • samad
    Aug 25, 2011 - 7:41PM

    After reading some of the comments, I have seen a lot of finger pointing and blame game all over this blog.

    If we need things to work in there then have town hall meetings to gather ideas and propose solutions. This will not only expose to best of local minds but will present varies positive ideas needed to put our country back on track!


  • Salman Orangiwala
    Aug 25, 2011 - 10:06PM

    Viva La George !!!

    WE live in Karachi and you have aptly described our sentiments .
    There are people here shovng comments up down and in the middle , who mostly are NOT even from Karachi and are highly unlikely to be aware of the ground reality ,spitting venom against MQM ( oh ! soooo , the usual Imran’s brigade of netwarriors ) .

    The bare truth coming from an ex-pat Britisher( or is it American ? ) is sure giving the ” Mai na Manoon ” oximoron , biased DESIS a scyzophrania .Recommend

  • khan
    Aug 26, 2011 - 11:43AM

    Rehman Malik rose from a lowly grade 13 or 14 officer to claim the second highest post in the FIA under a PPP government during the 1990s. Many claim he did so by worming his way through by sycophancy and bribery.

    With the dismissal of the government of the PPP, Rehman Malik left the country and settled in the UK where he bought a takeaway food franchise in Edgware Road.

    His rise in PPP politics it is believed due to his role in successfully managing investments for Benazir Bhutto’s in Spain and elsewhere. As his influence grew, his house in London emerged as the unofficial PPP head office in the UK.

    It’s anyone’s guess where his loyalties lie today. He is not strictly a PPP man as his loyalties have been strictly personal- he was Benazir’s man and now a Zardari man but as a survivalist he is ‘loyal’ to the Rawalpindi Establishment. One may accuse him of all the sins in the world, but one thing is rest assured, whatever happens he will continue to survive by ingratiating himself, and providing all his store of dubious talents to the next power on the throne of Pakistan.


  • Sajida
    Sep 7, 2011 - 7:14PM

    @Imran Khan You have a blinkered vision. The city did well under the prior mayor under this system. You should discard your blinkers.George makes good points about the need for restoration of LG system. I would say all cities need such a system;not just Karachi. I do not agree with Georg’s point about directly elected mayors. I will not hold it against him as most people are unaware of the difference between the dynamics of a unitary system and a decentralized system. Indirect elections help to prevent the friction that can within the system.Being indirectly elected hasn’t limited Parisian mayors from performing. What happened with under former mayor Livingstone. It hasn’t been an issue with the present mayor because he hasn’t exerted himself. Mayor Giuliani didn’t make up for the dysfunctional and inadequate system of NYC. Just walk around and see how only a small part of the city looks well while rest looks like it wouldn’t look out of place in a developing country- even though its revenues exceed Pakistan’s and it has only 8 million population to manage. This is why the middle class and working poor have decamped to the suburbs. Bogota has had a history of good mayors under the reformed system but that is because it has developed a culture. Karachi was ion its way with 2 good mayors in a row;until the PPP put a halt to the process.


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