‘PPP, PTI, PML-N, and MQM together are the partners in crimes against Karachi.’
Hafiz Naeemur Rehman, Ameer, Jamaat-e-Islami (Karachi chapter), talks to SouthAsia in this exclusive interview with Faizan Usmani.
With regards to the ‘Haq Do Karachi Ko’ campaign launched by Jamaat-e-Islami - Karachi a few years back, in your view, how much the movement has achieved so far and how much would it take to make it a mission well-accomplished?
As bad luck would have it, Karachi, in a word, is a paradise lost. One hailed as a city par excellence in the days of yore, it has now descended into an asphalt jungle. The city of Karachi can frankly be referred to as a regressive urban sprawl, which instead of making any strides towards further development or augmented refinement, has been moving in a retrogressive direction for eons and has not been able to regain the lost sheen the city of lustrous lights and glittering glow was globally known for. Karachi, as it currently stands, is a lost city, which has been reduced to rubble and awfully destroyed in almost every imaginable way.
Initiated by Jamaat-e-Islami to revive and return the city its former bloom and fallen glory, the movement ‘Haq Do Karachi Ko’ is still in its incipient stage and has miles to go to meet the overriding goal, which, however, cannot be achieved without the active participation of the people over and above a sincere and capable leadership. Against this backdrop, we have been politically upfront, creating a much-needed awareness among the people.
For Karachi, the introduction of the Local Government Act by the Sindh government turned out to be watershed moment since the Act snatched away many powers and functions which basically come under the purview of the city government, ruled by an elected mayor. However, it afforded the Jamaat-e-Islami an opportune moment to bring the issue to the fore with a vengeance. At long last, we were finally able to have many rounds of discussion with representatives of the Sindh government and they agreed to some of our demands. In fact, there are lot of other things that fall within the ambit of both the provincial and federal governments and their conducts.
Briefly put, what fails Karachi time and again is the fact that no one is ready to take up the reins or come forward to take ownership of the metropolitan. Those who win political mandate from the city are not ready to take charge and those who are in the government are not willing to deliver either. To make things worse, the bureaucracy, together with the Establishment doesn’t give the city the attention it rightly deserves.
Please shed some light on the recent negotiations held between the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Sindh government.
As per the highlights of our recent negotiations held with the Sindh government, the Local Government Act 2021 will be repealed in entirety and many city’s institutions and their administrative powers, including the governance and administration of health and education departments, will be handed back to the Karachi local government. The elected city mayor will be the chairman of the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB), which is a great achievement since the Sindh government was not disposed to hand over the KWSB to anyone else and the stalemate on this point also protracted our sit-in.
The delegation of financial authority back to the city mayor is another significant achievement. We have also ensured the setting up the Provincial Finance Commission (PFC) within a 30-day period of the local bodies elections, another milestone for us since the commission has not been formed for the last 14 years and all the financial powers are still vested in the provincial government, but these will soon devolved to the local bodies representatives.
There are three things with regards to the PFC that are now part of the agreement, e.g. Motor Vehicle Tax that Karachi has not received for the last fifty years, even in the era of General Pervez Musharraf. Then the ‘Octroi and Zilla Tax’ which used to be levied in the form of excise duty, was abolished in 1999 by the Nawaz Sharif government when it was decided that its historical share would be given to the provinces with about 76 percent share out of the collected GST also going to the local bodies. It continued till 2008, but that share gradually started dropping and the local bodies ended up receiving a merely 20 to 23 percent.
The primary reason behind the significant decrease is that from 2008 to 2014, both the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) were ruling the Sindh together as coalition partners in the provincial government and they continued to reduce that share for the city government, a fatal practice, which is still being followed today by the PPP-led Sind government.
More’s the pity, no political party or government stakeholders seriously raised their voice against this, other than mere rhetoric and political point-scoring. However, we have now ensured in the recent agreement that the Karachi Municipal Corporation (KMC) will be provided its share from the Octroi and Zilla Tax as it used to get in 1999. This will earn the KMC about Rs. 8 to 10 billion and even more yearly. In addition to that, we decided that all the union councils in the city will be provided funds according to their total population size.