Apart from the local bodies, we have ensured some more crucial things which fall under the remit of the federal government. For instance, the Karachi Water Project (K-IV), was designed to provide about 650 million gallons of water to Karachi, but the project has not been fully implemented for the last many years. Now, the federal government has reduced the total amount of water to one-third from the agreed 650 million gallons to merely 260 million gallons, while it is not willing to allocate an additional quota from the Indus River either. When Chief Minister Sindh Murad Ali Shah visited our dharna camp, we convinced him regarding the matter and he said in the media that the Sindh government will pay its part to supply water from the Indus River to Karachi.
With particular reference to the local bodies elections, the people of Karachi are left with no choice other than the Jamaat-e-Islami.
Overall, this is a great achievement since most people do not realise the acute paucity of water in Karachi, while not a single drop has been added to the city’s water system for the last seventeen years. The last project, abbreviated as K-III, was completed during the mayorship of City Nazim Naimatullah Khan, while Mayor Abdul Sattar brought about 100 million gallons of water to the city from the Hub Dam. We are also pressing the government to make Karachi Medical and Dental College a university, the proposal will be approved by the Cabinet anytime soon.
Now it is up to the citizens of Karachi to learn lessons from the past and this time elect an honest, sincere and dedicated leadership who is able to run the city’s affairs in a transparent manner.
Considering its track record, do you think the PPP will act as per the agreement to amend the Local Government Act?
In any political and democratic process, things are settled through negotiations, discussions and deliberations. To give Karachi its due rights back, we are making a peaceful struggle within constitutional means and this is how things should take place in a true democratic process. The result is that the Sindh government has officially made an agreement with us. This agreement cannot be compared with the deal the erstwhile MQM made in the 1990, which was truly a clandestine affair and no one could ever know that what their 52-point agenda was. In contrast, we negotiated and reached an agreement out in the open without conspiring or connivance. Secondly, all details of the agreement between the both sides were brought to the public then and there, that too in the presence of media and in front of the whole nation.
In the past, it was quite easy for the PPP to do whatever they wanted to do in the name of governance since they were fully supported by the MQM, whether as a Opposition party or a coalition partner.
However, the time has changed and things are not similar now, since this time they are facing the Jamaat-e-Islami, which will never allow the PPP to backtrack from its commitments. Practically speaking, things are settled at face value. Jamaat is not state or the government; its neither the Judiciary nor the Army or the Police. Being a political party, we can thus employ only political means in a peaceful manner to get things done and that’s what we have been doing to convince and pressurise the people in power.
What about those areas that are under the various defence forces, the cantonment boards and D.H.A?
When it comes to governance, there should always be a single chain of command, laced with a one-window operation. Much to our chagrin, the Cantonment Board Act, implemented during the British rule in 1924, is still in place. This matters belongs to the federation and it behooves the Parliament to revise and amend the Act. The federal government and political stakeholders need to discuss the issue with the Armed Forces to resolve the matter for good.
The lack of a single chain of command is affecting the development process in both the cantonment and non-cantonment areas of the city, since the residents of the cantonment areas too are not happy or satisfied with the prevailing state of administration, which was badly exposed when torrential rains caused havoc Karachi in August 2020. In the given situation, there must be a proper setup in place for the coordination and synchronisation of the federal, provincial and civic authorities and cantonment areas, all working under the city mayor.
Do you think Karachi needs a new census?
With regards to census, the injustice done with Karachi is that instead of counting its population on a de facto basis, the counting has been carried out on de jure basis, virtually shifting a large number population from the city on the basis of their permanent address. The people who live here and use its infrastructure and yet they are not counted because their permanent addresses are listed in other cities and rural areas.
This dichotomy affects Karachi in two ways. First, when it comes to the city’s representation in local bodies polls and general elections, seats are allocated on the basis of population and since Karachi’s population is compromised, its ratio in the provincial and national assembly will also be reduced, thus leading to a litany of issues and problems in the just allocation of resources. Most importantly, when a development project for electric generation, water management and for other purposes is planned by national and international institutions (e.g. the World Bank, the IMF, the UN, etc.), it is carried out on the basis of officially-announced census results.
This implies the fact that whatever project is designed for Karachi, it will serve only half of its population. The last census was held in 2017 and it was decided that 5% percent of the statistical block will be reopened for random checking to match the census results, but it was not done by all three parties, including the PML-N, the PPP and the PTI. The PTI came to power in 2018, winning a large number of seats from Karachi. However, the PTI has badly neglected the city and never addressed the census issue and then after two years it notified the 2017 Census, which is based on inaccurate counting.
A year before, the PTI government announced a new census but by following the same pattern as that of the 2017 census, which is a violation of the UN manuals as well as Pakistani law. However, since the government is following the old counting criteria, they will not count 40% of the city population.
When the government of Sindh says that the population of the province is undercounted, it does not refer to the undercounted population of Karachi since they fear that a correct census of the city will reduce their seats in Sindh and ultimately put an end to their wadera shahi. Therefore, they only resort to a symbolic protest and nothing else. The PPP is one of the country’s leading parties that has been ruling the roost for the last many years both at the provincial and federal levels, but it has shown least interest in resolving the census issue, since it suits their political interests. Being equally responsible to the plight of Karachi, the PTI, the PML-N, the PPP and the MQM together are the partners in crimes, usurping the rights of Karachiites in every aspect.
Do you think the Jamaat-e-Islami has the potential to re-emerge a leading party in Karachi?
Yes, there are chances. Since the general elections will be held after the local bodies polls, we are at the moment running our political campaign, which is primarily focused on local bodies polls. The result of those LG polls will automatically reflect in the general elections. With particular reference to the local bodies elections, the people of Karachi are left with no choice other than the Jamaat-e-Islami as its track record corroborates the fact, whether in terms of performance, timely delivery or overall good governance.
On the contrary, the MQM does not have this ability, while the PPP is biased towards Karachi and there is nothing to write home about the capacity and performance of the PTI, especially when it comes to their negligence and apathy shown towards Karachi. Despite being in power for about 3 and a half years, Prime Minister Imran Khan has not spent a single day in a city like Karachi, a city which gave him such a big mandate and is the economic hub of the country. In doing so, he seems to have his own personal reasons as some spiritual beings have advised him to stay away from the sea and this is how he is running the country.
And when we look at the performance, conduct and overall seriousness of PTI MNAs, they are good for nothing since they don’t know anything about Karachi and its main issues. In fact, they are a bunch of people who can’t do anything for the betterment of Karachi. The PPP relies on qabza politics, job placements, transfer postings, and fuel prejudice and ethnicity for its vested interests, while the MQM tops the list of those who have devastated the city, despite a heavy made and political power.
Jamaat-e-Islami has never been able to win a majority of seats, but it still has the ability to carry along all the political stakeholders together. Jamaat does not discriminate against citizens because of their racial, lingual ethnic, sectarian or religious backgrounds or political affiliations. In recent political opinion polls held purely on scientific methods by different institutions, Jamaat-e-Islami emerged as a leading party. The fact was also proven in the recent elections held in cantonment areas when the Jamaat-e-Islami appeared as an emerging political force in terms of total number of votes, thus making a remarkable comeback in the electoral politics of the city.
The ongoing ‘Haq Do Karachi Ko’ campaign and the ensuing dhara has also helped us to create a conducive environment for the Jamaat-e-Islami. Particularly after the sit-in exercise, the scenario has changed completely, giving the Jamaat-e-Islami an edge over the other political parties.
What future do you see for religious parties in the country, with particular reference to Jamaat-e-Islami?
Jamaat-e-Islami is not that kind of a religious party as most people think about. Since ‘Deen’ is our foundation, which cannot be compromised in any circumstances, however, Jamaat-e-Islami neither boasts of any particular form of Islamic jurisprudence nor does it apotheosize any outward appearance exhibited by a long beard or the trouser turn-ups raising above the ankles. Such attributes have a marginal share in the religion, which in fact is an all-encompassing Nizam by itself, propagating holistic justice and righteousness and ensuring equality and equal opportunities for all the people. If things happen otherwise and go in the reverse direction, it suggests that it is not Deen, but something else. We do not belong to any particular sect, as we are neither Barelvi nor Deobandi, or something of a similar kind. Honestly, Jamaat-e-Islami is truly a moderate party, which lies in-between extreme right and extreme left. Jamaat-e-Islami represents the real version of Islam which addresses local issues as well.
When we take a comparative look, we do not see religious parties having a decisive political power and popularity among the people.
Other than the Jamaat-e-Islami, the rest of the religious parties in the country are doing their politics purely on secular lines and it is only their appearance that helps them prove their religious credentials, and nothing else. Such politics of the religious parties is detrimental to religion itself as it distorts its image in the public. To secure their vested interests, for instance, they appear to religious and exploit the religious sentiments of the masses, but in reality their politics is more secular than the other political parties operating along secular lines, which is simply a facade. Flashing a jubba (robe), the lot of turbaned devouts smugly disapprove of those who do not have a beard on their faces.
However, the same religious parties feel no harm in issuing tickets to those millionaires and billionaires who don’t have a beard but are able to spend billions of rupees and nobody in their parties is going to object to this. Put it bluntly, this practice can be referred to as dirty secular politics, given the fact that secular politics has some values too. Unfortunately, these religious parties are mere opportunists and tend to practice such politics, which is devoid of any such principles, norms and values.
How consequential will be the Opposition’s long march against the PTI government?
I am not even sure whether the long march will take place or not, since whether it is the Opposition or the government, they don’t make decisions on their own. They act according to the state of play and look towards the Establishment to set their future course of action. Despite its incompetence coupled with poor performance, the PTI government is still in power only because of the Opposition, which is not victim but accomplice of the poor show of governance. A couple of years before, for example, a long march took place against the PTI government, but why did their months-long sit-in in Islamabad end abruptly? The question must be asked to them: why did they come to Islamabad and why did they leave on just one phone call? The Opposition has no credibility as all the parties in the Opposition are in fact helping and strengthening the current regime to keep things going, despite its miserably poor performance. The same applies for the elected representatives sitting at the Opposition benches in the Sindh Assembly.
Anything else you want to add here.
I want to say something with regards to the recent verdict of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Gulzar, about the Sindh Local Government Act (SLGA) 2013. It is very strange that the judgment on the verdict of October 2020 was withheld for a year and a half and then it was finally announced on the last day of Justice Gulzar in service, who had been in Karachi for a while, hearing all such cases as the 15-storey Nasla Tower for encroaching on the land meant for a service road, and many others. However, he took such a long time to announce the verdict about the SLGA. Had the verdict been issued in October 2020, many problems facing the city today could have been resolved. This was quite a strange attitude of the Chief Justice and it also puts a question mark on the overall judicial system.
Also, other than the 74-75 clause, the verdict has not determined a particular time frame for the government to act upon the verdict accordingly. At least, the verdict should have issued directives to the federal parliament to include a separate chapter in the Constitution regarding the power of the local bodies and if that would have happened, it could have solved many problems. I believe the Supreme Court verdict is incomplete, as it should have determined a specific timeline along with compliance boundaries.
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