July 06 - 12, 2009

Since last four years, citizens of Karachi have exposed to civic facilities, which have no precedence in last four decades and heightened their expectations about civic services to a point delicate to be fallen back in case of below par provision of services. Not ready to shove off the perquisites that services entail costs that include financial as well as non-financial, perhaps they still are taking a good social change for granted. On the other hand, while they sorely tend to praise metropolitan metamorphism bringing relief somewhere at someplace for society at large, yet majority of them somehow have accepted that obligation to meet their civic rights solely lies with the city district government Karachi, which is one of the several civic agencies functioning in the city. Because of being unaware of the chequered administration of the city and as they see no other parallel authority having such a euphoria towards development of Karachi, people make the district government responsible for any lapse.

In fact, at public level the tug of war among different custodian of civic affairs has no importance as long as it does not translate in to crippling of, and discrepancy in, municipal services or until it bogs down cohesion in services across the board. This however adversely affects smooth administration. If administration is divided in to numerous elected and non-elected bodies then uniformity in planning, development, and management cannot be maintained. City district government has been struggling to synchronize developments in the city. Nazim Karachi says that synchronization is possible only through unity of command. For one reason or another, however, it has not gotten a desirable outcome.

Over thirteen agencies are managing civic affairs of the city. Being major stakeholders, cantonment boards oppose relegation of management of civic areas under their jurisdictions to the city government, substantiating its running municipal affairs with the provisions of Cantonment Act 1924.

Masood Alam, Executive District Officer Municipal Services CDGK says this Act means to enforce discretion of cantonments on 'non-civilian' operational area to mobilize resources and to plan and manage developments. Aggregate civil areas under control of Karachi Cantonment, Malir, Clifton, Manora, Faisal, Korangi Creek cantonments spread over 26,096 acres.

It is relevant to mention that Supreme Court of Pakistan issued an order on October 10, 2007, in which it states that civilian areas shall be excluded from the cantonment boards through a notification by Ministry of Defence. A survey was to be conducted in this effect to identify the areas by a committee comprising nominated members by the court and within one month, that committee had to submit its report. As per the order, Karachi Strategic Development Plan-2020 prepared by the city district government Karachi shall be binding on all the stakeholders/civic agencies functioning in Karachi. In pursuance of Supreme Court order, Sindh government notified establishment of Karachi Municipal Services Board to plan, develop, and manage the municipal services within the city district Karachi under overall single agency concept. City Nazim would be its chairperson and representations would be from all stakeholders and civic agencies in decision-making of land control and municipal services. However, the execution of the order was halted because of a review petition filed against it in the Supreme Court by Military Lands and Cantonments.

When it comes to planning, management, and development of municipal services, there is a need of financial resources. All agencies have their independent sources of income. Besides cantonments, there are Karachi Port Trust, Civil Aviation Authority, Pakistan Steel, SITE, etc., which independently plan developments for their areas across the metropolis. According to Masood Alam, they do not share any kind of resources with the city government despite that they directly or indirectly take benefits of its developed facilities. "They are utilizing our services free of cost," bewailed EDO Municipal Services during an interview.

For example, city government has two landfill sites and garbage from all areas irrespective of their controlling agency is dumped there, he said. "We spend normally Rs20 to 25 million in collecting and disposing off offal during Eid-ul-Azha and do not hunt for it in specific domain. In return, we get nothing from others. Likewise, infrastructural development enhances significance and marketing value of locations. The rate of billboards has increased manifold after flyovers and intersections have broadened their spectacle. The monetary benefits are not restricted to particular areas, but sprinkled massively to all corner, though rate per square is high in non-CDGK controlled domains."

He said sources of revenue for the city government were inadequate. Property transactions fees from Karachi Development Authority, which he termed a white elephant, trade licences fees, billboard rents are main revenue sources, he outlined. Even people are not ready to pay against services, referring to infrastructure tax he said. "Even if one is living in defence or Clifton, he owes the tax to the city government as he is leading comfortable travelling on roads, flyovers, underpasses constructed by it." The CDGK total collection of infrastructure tax of a quarter was much below target. As against estimate of Rs800 million, it fetched only Rs15million in a quarter. We are not interested in land ownership but uniformity in municipal services around the city, he emphasized. City government invites all stakeholders and civic agencies to get together every year to discuss plans so that cohesion in development strategies is integrated. Unity of command negates decentralization, said he when principle of devolution was referred.