The urban flooding in Karachi and Hyderabad, which led to deaths and displacement, during the recent monsoon rains smack of conspiracy to the Sindh government.
“We want to know why the municipality staff suddenly disappeared from both the cities,” asked Sindh information minister Sharjeel Memon. “These officers [of Karachi and Hyderabad municipal corporations] are blue-eyed boys of our former coalition partner. They have been working on these posts through the last government [in Sindh].”
At a press conference on Sunday night, Memon squarely put the blame on the municipal workers for deliberately keeping away from work. “For eight hours, the local government minister Owais Muzaffar and I were on the roads of Karachi but it was difficult to find municipal workers in most of the areas.”
An inquiry has been initiated on the chief minister’s order and before long the “forces that are trying to fail the Sindh government will be exposed”, he promised. Hyderabad received 70 millimetre rain during the three-to-four-hour-long cloudburst on Saturday afternoon.
The minister was surprised to know that though the rainfall was barely three inches in measurement, the water which accumulated in several towns was two to three feet high. He also referred to the removal of dozens of sand bags from the nullah, which overflew and drowned dozens of localities in downtown city taluka. “We have asked the Hyderabad commissioner to submit an inquiry report to the chief minister.”
Defending the removal of KMC administrator Hashim Raza Zaidi, he said the chief minister had warned officials, at a meeting for rain and flood preparations last month, they will be fired if they did not perform. Memon then warned the Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (HMC) administrator Syed Barkat Rizvi that he will also be removed if complaints against him continued.
The workers of the Water and Sanitation Agency (Wasa) and HMC have been protesting for months against unpaid salaries. The minister, while evading comments on Wasa’s financial woes, maintained that salaries of both the KMC and HMC workers are regularly paid. “We regularly release funds to the KMC and the HMC,” he said. “The provincial government is not responsible if that money is utilised under different heads.”
Meanwhile, Wasa points fingers at the Hyderabad Electric Supply Company (Hesco) for suspending electric supply to the whole city during the rainfall. Hesco managing director Saleemuddin said the drainage pumping stations did not have fuel to run the generator. They had to wait till the evening of that day to supply diesel worth Rs1 million to all the stations, he explained.
Meanwhile, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) demanded temporary handover of the district administrations in Karachi and Hyderabad to former nazims Mustafa Kamal and Kanwar Naveed. Memon termed, however, this demand as unconstitutional and unnecessary. “What if Jamaat-i-Islami demands giving authority in Karachi to [former nazim] Niamatullah Khan? Will that be acceptable to the MQM?” In response, MQM’s Faisal Subzwari issued a statement regretting that Memon politicised this “purely humanitarian demand”.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2013.