New Sindh Governor to understand Mayor’s problems

Salahuddin Haider

GOVERNOR Mohammad Zubair brings with him rich experience of corporate and political matters having been with the ruling PML(N) party since reasonable period, he should help cultivate a healthy relationship between various tiers of the administration in a province, riddled with problems.
His task, therefore, will be highly demanding, but his initial statement that he will try and understand the problem of powers with Mayor Waseem Akhtar is indeed encouraging.
Unfortunately, the ruling Peoples Party suffers from a complex in its base province, and although it was keen on securing autonomy for provinces, succeeding in that mission through the 18th amendment to the Constitution, it somehow is rather strangely reluctant to decentralize its authority to the lower tiers of the administration, which are municipal network, considered extremely important in developed countries or those eager to rate themselves higher in the eyes of the world.
Seen in proper context, reverting back to the system of ruling through commissioners and deputy commissioners, is actually colonial in style. The English, during their rule of the subcontinent, used bureaucracy to control the local population, but never applied the same system in their own country. England,France,Germany, Switzerland, United States of America, Australia and Newezealand, Canada, all have county system, under which Mayor is the final authority.
Yet another tragic factor in Pakistan politics is the emphasis from military dictators to deregulate the authority to municipal levels, while those taking arrogant pride in claiming themselves to be champions of democracy, never really went for decentralized system of government or parting with power.
The current government in Sindh, as well those of PML(N), and PTI in KP too have reversed a devolution plan of General Pervez Musharraf, controlling all the authority, financial powers etc, in the hands of a few like the chief minister or the local government ministers in their respective jurisdictions.
The result is obvious. Development work has suffered immeasurably in various provinces, depending upon degrees because of the interest shown by the top echelons of authorities in Punjab, Sindh, or Balochistan and Khyberpukhottonkhaw.
Whether Zubair as the new governor, can really be instrumental in solving the city’s problems, accumulated over the years for various reasons, is hard to predict. Multiple factors will be at work, including devolution of authority vested in the Sindh chief minister, to the newly elected municipal tiers of the administration.
Zubair did draw a hint of his keenness to address the ticklish issue, but never really explained as to how he would find a solution acceptable to all. The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) has mayor, deputy mayor, an elected house of councilors, but devoid of authority to be effective in solving the city problems, including water supplies, drainage system, load shedding being done unilaterally, and for no rhyme or reason by K-Electric, reconstruction of roads, resdesigning and restructuring the main thoroughfares in a way that could reduce pressure for traffic jams etc.
The chief minister Murad Ali Shah, ever since assuming authority, has indeed been active, and vibrant in chairing meetings, and moving around the vast city, but his orders so far have yielded very little or almost zero results. He had in fact told the Mayor that leave alone the issue of powere, and be with him to work jointly. His message was very clear. The Party to which he belongs, does not believe in parting with power.It wants to take all the credit for developing Karachi, and other areas in Sindh, but without taking the municipal administration, the task is not only difficult, but almost impossible.
Zubair’s initial remarks that he will concentrate on maintaining peace in Karachi which has been achieved by the present government during the last three and a half years it had been in the saddle, can only be considered meaningful if backed by practical steps to develop Karachi. Peace, indisputably is sine qua non for development, and for attracting foreign investors, who had shied away over the years for security fears, but he would have to work out an arrangement with the chief minister, himself, and the Karachi Mayor, to form a team of achievers, each realizing his duties and obligations, rather on overlapping the work of each other. Devolution with financial authority to lowest tiers of the administration is essential for ensuring meaningful development of Karachi, the real revenue earner for the country. Without that it will be put up show. The governor, taking over tomorrow, will therefore, be on trial.