SLGA Amendment Bill 2021
THROUGH your esteemed columns, I wish to invite the attention of your valuable readers including constitutional experts towards Sindh Local Government Act Amendment Bill 2021 for their views on the subject in larger public interest.
The Amendment has reversed the analogy of devolution of power in a democratic set-up. It has also hurt the spirit of 18th Constitutional Amendment wherein functions and powers were devolved from Federation to the provinces.
This means that the devolution of power can be from a higher level of authority to a lower one as was done in the Constitution of Pakistan.
It is ironic that the powers and functions of Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) have been transferred to the government of Sindh under the said amendment.
KMC is a local government institution and falls under the definition of third tier of State ie, Federal Government and Parliament, Provincial Government, and Assembly as well as Local Government and Local Council.
Through the amendment in the Sindh Local Government Act, the amendment transferred functions and powers of the third tier to the second tier of State which is illogical.
Further, the amendment in local government law was passed by the Sindh Assembly in haste and did not fulfil the requirement of parliamentary debate on the subject.
It is also surprising that the inherent functions of KMC have also been taken away like health and education. Hospitals like Spencer’s Eye Hospital were run by KMC even before the inception of Pakistan.
Likewise, Abbasi Shaheed, Sarfaraz Rafiqui Shaheed, Sobraj Hospital and Karachi Medical and Dental College Hospital were also administered by KMC for decades.
Abbasi Shaheed Hospital was put under the control of KMC by Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto in the 70s whereas Sarfaraz Rafiqui and Sobraj hospitals were being governed by the Corporation even before that. Similarly, educational institutions to a certain extent were also run by KMC for long.
Moreover, the Department of Building Control was also under KMC by the name of Architect Control Department till 1979 and should be retransferred to the Metropolitan Body.
Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, in his reply to the civic address presented by city fathers on 25 August 1947, had described the importance of the then Karachi Municipal Corporation and anticipated that the governments would facilitate the Corporation in discharge of its functions befittingly. He was of the opinion that Karachi will be expanded horizontally and not vertically.
Unfortunately, Quaid’s vision of Karachi was ignored, and Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) has allowed towering structures without taking into account the availability of infrastructure in the city of the Quaid.
I demand review of Sindh Local Government Act 2021 in the light of provisions of Article 140-A of the Constitution and the legislature be publicized for public objections and suggestions on it.
—The writer is contributing columnist, based in Karachi.