By Syed M. Aslam
Feb 16 - 22, 2003



FASIHUDDIN SIDDIQUI takes pride being the Nazim of the most literate town in the whole country the North Nazimabad Town with an unmatched literacy rate of 78 per cent. Born, raised and educated in the Town, which he heads today at the grass roots level under the new set-up of City Government introduced by President Pervez Musharraf, he did Inter Science from City College, Nazimabad and completed Auto Diesel diploma from Government College of Technology. During his student-years he played hockey and cricket representing his institutions in inter-school and inter-college matches. He worked for Oil and Gas Development Corporation and later joined Pakistan State Oil with which he remained associated with it as Technical Manager till he opted for the golden-handshake scheme introduced by the public sector organisation under the retrenchment programme. He contested the Local Bodies elections and win it to head North Nazimabad Town, one of the 18 Towns of Karachi, which has a population of over 500,000 and comprise 10 Union Councils.

PAGE: What you think the benefits of Local Bodies system are?

FASIHUDDIN: It has the people easy access to have their problems solved, particularly the civic ones, because it's origin is at the grass roots level. It has helped the people to overcome problems such as street lighting, water & sewerage, road repairs and maintenance, sanitation, parks, etc., addressed through direct involvement and participation. The system has helped build-up public confidence because the execution of public works and beautification of towns are executed openly.

PAGE: Is there a conflict between the provincial government and Local Bodies?

FASIHUDDIN: Yes, there is, particularly here in Karachi where the representatives of the Town administrations and the member of the provincial parliament, both elected, belong to two different political parties but are, nevertheless, answerable to the public. Prior to the general elections in October 2002 the Karachi District Local Government, of which the 18 Towns of the city is a part, were allowed to work fully. There has been a conflict between the two now because of there are many matters that overlap. The National Reconstruction Bureau, the creator of the local bodies system, should play it role to remove the ambiguities to help the elected MPAs and elected local bodies to work alongside and not in discord.

PAGE: What are the primary sources of revenue for Towns?

FASIHUDDIN: The Towns earn their revenues primarily from property tax, open advertising on roads & public and private spaces and conservancy (sanitation) tax. Prior to 2001, the Towns were allowed to collect the advertisement revenues themselves. However, a Sindh Local Government Ordinance issued by the then Governor in 2001 transferred the responsibility of collecting advertisement revenue to the City Government which has taken a devastating toll. In 2001-02, the North Nazimabad Town alone collected Rs 8.5 million in advertising revenue while in 2002-03 the City Government collected a total of just Rs 1.3 million across the entire 18 Towns. This year the City Government would be able to collect almost no advertising revenue at all.

PAGE: What about property tax?

FASIHUDDIN: Like the rest of the 17 Towns of the city, the North Nazimabad Town also makes it budget on the basis of the revenue, a big portion of which comes from the property tax. The provincial government collects the property tax and distributes it to the Towns accordingly based on the number and size of the properties in a particular town. What has made the situation even worse is that the provincial government abolished the property tax on all properties measuring 120 square yards or less. I must say that the measure was aimed primary to weaken the Town administrations financially because it offered blanket abolishment of the property tax on all properties of 120 square yard or less completely disregarding the fact that most of them were multi-storied. Needless to say, the transfer of power to collect advertising revenue and the abolishment of property tax have deprived the government of primary sources of revenue thereby hurting them immensely financially. My Town, which based its Rs 230 million 2003-04 budget has received just Rs 35 million by the provincial government under the head of property tax half of which was deducted by the KESC at source for the street lighting which is provided to us at commercial rates despite being used for public convenience.



PAGE: How do you manage to fund various water, sewerage, road repairs and beautification programmes then?

FASIHUDDIN: We have convinced the stake holders, such as dozens of marriage halls located in our area, as well as others to help us financially to help carry on with various projects, particularly beautification. We have also asked the contractors to carry out the works on delayed payments after the completion of the work. The "Khushhal Pakistan" programme of the federal government has also helped us do a lot of work. I am glad to say that the beautification works done by us have helped push real estate prices in our Town.

PAGE: Are there any special projects you are working on?

FASIHUDDIN: We have already repaired and renovated around 3.5 million square feet of major roads in our Town and plan to do the same to interior roads in next 4-5 months. Each of the 10 Union Councils in our Town has around 3.5 million square. In addition, a Saudi investor has already started work to develop an amusement park on BOT basis in Block E, North Nazimabad. The Rs 20 million amusment park will open for public seven months from now and will have latest rides and water slides to help soothe the tensions that pervades our environs today.