Recently, two issues – Karachi’s woes after rains and serious allegations against CPEC Authority Chairman Lt-Gen (retd) Asim Saleem Bajwa – have captured the people’s attention.
Karachi’s decades-old problems cannot be solved overnight. Prime Minister Imran Khan has announced a Rs1.1tr package to transform the city by solving its water, drainage, waste disposal, encroachment and public transport problems. The Centre and Sindh have contributed to the package. A provincial coordination implementation committee under Sindh Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah will execute the plan.
It is tragic rather shameful that PTI’s federal and PPP’s Sindh governments announced the programme after the death of around 50 innocent people and the destruction of many houses by heavy rains and flooded water. If they had taken steps earlier to tackle the city’s problems, precious lives and huge economic losses could have been averted. No doubt, this time the rains were heavy and unprecedented. But, a good administration might have been able to lessen the damage. Unfortunately, decades of neglect, corruption, partisan interests and sectarian bias have aggravated the situation and problems in Karachi. Weeks have passed since the torrential rainfall, yet many areas of the city — including the DHA — are still flooded with rainwater. While many areas are still without electricity.
The structural collapse clearly shows that the federal, provincial and local governments have totally failed to deliver in Karachi. There are many causes of the failure of deliverance. Three military dictators, who ruled Pakistan for about 30 years, ignored the city badly. They did not try to build a good infrastructure which could fulfil the needs of the metropolitan city. Tragically, they ignored the economic significance of the city. Ziaul Haq introduced the MQM to Karachi. He encouraged the party to indulge in violence for getting control and crushing the PPP in Karachi. Resultantly, the MQM plundered Karachi’s resources ruthlessly. It introduced violent politics, nepotism, favouritism, extortion, racial prejudice, kidnapping and corruption in the city. It did not pay heed to the development of Karachi.
The PPP, which is enjoying its 12-year continuous rule in the province, has criminally neglected the mega city. The PPP’s corrupt leadership and governments have ruthlessly plundered the resources of the city. They deliberately encouraged corruption, facilitated encroachment, created the Peoples Aman Committee, supported Uzair Baloch and other land mafias to counter the MQM and protect their own partisan interests. They are ignoring the city because the people of Karachi do not vote for them in elections. So, the corrupt leaders of the PPP are taking revenge from the innocent people of the city by not introducing development projects to Karachi.
The blame also rests on the shoulders of the people of Karachi as well. The people of Karachi have always voted for religious parties, like the JI (Jamaat-e-Islami), JUI (Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam), JUP (Jamiat Ulema-e-Pakistan) and MQM (ethnic parties) that have not formed the government in the Centre. The situation compels the PPP to focus on rural Sindh voters and ignore the Urdu speakers and Pakhtuns living in Karachi.
PTI’s federal and PPP’s provincial governments can solve the gigantic problems of the city if they keep aside politics. But unfortunately, both parties are not willing to stop playing politics over the mega city. Cracks have already appeared between the Centre and the province over the implementation of the Rs1.1tr Karachi transformation plan. After the announcement of the plan by Prime Minister Imran Khan, PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto said, “The Sindh government would contribute Rs800b to the package, while the Centre pays the rest of the cost.” Criticising the statement, federal Minister Asad Umar claimed that the Centre was contributing 62 percent to it. He said there should be no politics on the package implementation. The development clearly shows that there lies mistrust and rivalries between the two parties. Asad Umar’s declaration that “the 18th Amendment is a hurdle to the city’s uplift” has also strengthened the PPP’s misgivings, which are not easy to remove in the coming days. No doubt, the PTI should respect the spirit of devolution. On the other hand, the PPP’s Sindh government should also realise that its local government law (the SLGA 2013) has failed to solve Karachi’s problems. The law has made the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation a toothless body by snapping up nearly all powers of the local bodies. The PPP should give due rights to the local bodies, if it wants to bring about prosperity and progress in Karachi.
The second issue relating to General (retd) Asim Bajwa, Special Assistant to Prime Minister (SAPM) and CPEC Authority Chairman, has shown not only the power of social media but also the true face of Pakistan’s journalism. On August 27, a journalist broke the news on his website about the alleged business empire of General Asim Saleem Bajwa’s family in the US. Interestingly, media outlets in Pakistan preferred to not carry the story. However, General (retd) Asim Bajwa has termed the report “malicious propaganda”. He tendered his resignation from the post as special adviser to the prime minister after issuing a four-page clarification. After the clarification, Prime Minister Imran Khan did not accept his resignation. However, the controversy will not die soon.
According to a newspaper: “Mr Bajwa took the right decision by attempting to resign as SAPM, even though he did not choose to relinquish his charge as chairman CPEC Authority. Nevertheless, the gravity of the allegations against him is such that notwithstanding the prime minister’s vote of confidence, the retired general needs to be more forthcoming in terms of documentation, particularly as he claims he can present the complete money trail. A perception that he is shying away from accountability, like some politicians, would reflect negatively on him. Even if his assertion is correct that no wrongdoing is involved, he must for the sake of transparency, and to clear his name and that of his family, demonstrate willingness to cooperate with an FBR or NAB investigation”. The truth should prevail.