Why is the Sindh government failing Karachi?

Only a strong, powerful local government, free of provincial interference, would allow Karachi to control its destiny

Ajaz Haque May 22, 2015
The writer is a political commentator based in Toronto

Pakistan’s largest city, the oldest port city in the country and the commercial and financial hub, bleeds on a daily basis. Corruption, kidnappings, murder and extortion are daily norms, which have made this once prosperous city a place of fear and violence.

SSPs, DSPs and lower-ranked officers are butchered without any effective reaction from the Sindh government, which seems to have abandoned the city to its fate and surrendered governance completely. Recruitment and promotions in the police often happen on a political basis, disheartening and discouraging brave and honest officers who work diligently. The PPP, which has been in Sindh’s corridors of power since 2008, and its current federal partner, the PML-N, have collectively thrown local governments into the dustbin. No local bodies elections have taken place since these two parties joined hands in the power grab. Had it not been for the Supreme Court, the recent cantonment board elections and the (hopefully) forthcoming local bodies elections, would never have happened. The hunger for power seems to be so extreme that devolving power to local governments is a huge task for these parties.

There was a time when the Karachi airport used to be one of the busiest in the entire Middle East as it was considered a safe city where foreign airline crew could stay, walk the streets and shop freely. Pan America’s around-the-world flights coming from opposite directions used to meet at the Karachi airport. Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar had virtually no airports to speak of. Today, Dubai boasts more passenger traffic than some of the largest airports in the world.

Sindh appears to have a democratically elected government, but in reality there is one-man rule here. The residents of Karachi will never be in charge of their own destiny because of the current provincial set-up. Only a strong and powerful local government, free of provincial interference, would allow Karachi to control its destiny. The irony is that the PPP represents rural Sindh, but it has done little for it. The people of Sindh suffer from hunger, poverty and backwardness at the hands of rulers who seem hell-bent on keeping them in that state. One must ask, where are all the Sindh government funds going? The share of provincial revenue doubled post the 18th Amendment, but there is little evidence of any major public works either in Karachi or in other parts of Sindh.

Karachi desperately needs a public transit system, but in seven years, the Sindh government has not come up with a plan for this. Due to this incompetence, Karachi seems to have been left out of China’s $46 billion investment programme. Had it been ready with a transit plan, that too, could have been incorporated like Lahore’s orange metro. The citizens of Karachi must ask of their provincial government: where is all the money going and why is Karachi not getting its fair share? Karachi deserves better, the city needs to be reignited as a powerful commercial hub free of criminal elements. The city must be rid of criminals who claim affiliations to political parties and from misguided religious elements. The current clean-up operation in Karachi must ensure this. The citizens of Karachi need to take governance into their own hands and need to get rid of criminal elements from the political system. The city has a high number of brilliant and educated people and they must never again allow the city to be hijacked by criminals parading as politicians.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 23rd,  2015.

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Parvez | 6 years ago | Reply Sitting thousands of miles away it is easy to write '......people should do this ......or that ' . No one actually has the answer to ' how is it to be done '. Some who raised their voice are now ' six feet under '.
Ali S | 6 years ago | Reply Karachi desperately needs a local body govt comprised of locals and free of militant politics. The census will keep getting delayed for this reason - it's time to just go ahead and do a head count with NADRA data. Name any other major city in the world with a population of more than 20 million that doesn't have its own govt. More than any other Pakistani city, Karachi seems to be devolving rather than improving. PPP is a clear winner in a race to the bottom, you shouldn't expect anything else from them.
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