August 11, 2020

By Shaukat Korai


Karachi, the most populated city of Pakistan and the backbone of the country’s economy, is suffering from an intense governance crisis. Following the recent urban floods in the city, the federal government has called in the National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) to clean up the city’s underground and open-air sewage system.

Opposition parties in the Sindh Assembly have taken the government to task over the crisis. Members of opposition parties called out the Sindh government over its failure to effectively govern the metropolitan city.  

Haleem Adil Sheikh, the parliamentary leader of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaaf (PTI) in the Sindh parliament, has said that the Sindh government has failed to deliver. If the government cannot perform its duty, then in that case, the federal government will have no other option but to declare a financial emergency in the city under article 149 of the Constitution.  

“Declaring a financial emergency is a right given to the federal government by Article 149(4) of the 1973 constitution passed by Zulfiqar Bhutto himself, and we will not shy away from our responsibility in the face of this gross incompetence by the provincial government”, said Haleem.  

Waseem Akhtar, the mayor of Karachi, while criticizing the government has opposed the threats of imposition of Article 149 by the federal government. According to Waseem, devolution of power to the local bodies is a much more effective solution to the governance crisis than the imposition of the federal rule.  

On the other hand, the Sindh government has outrightly rejected the criticism leveled against it by the government. According to Sayed Nasir Hussain, Information minister Sindh, the Sindh government is well aware of its responsibilities to the citizens of Karachi. He declared the whole hype around the imposition of article 149 a publicity stunt. If the government is serious about bringing any positive change to the city, its representatives should sit with us and offer a concrete plan of action instead of merely throwing around fresh allegations, he said. 

“Those people who are threatening us with Article 149 have not even read the article themselves. Nowhere does the article say that the federal government can take over Karachi,” explains Sayed Nasir Hussain.  

Nasir says that cleaning drains and managing sewage and solid waste is the responsibility of the municipal corporation of Karachi and the corporation was up to task. The NDMA was called to the city by the federal government, and the provincial government is cooperating with the authority.  

Legal expert Zameer Ghumro says that weakening the democratically elected provincial government of Sindh is tantamount to weakening the citizenry of Sindh. He is of the view that Article 149 is being misrepresented in the media. The article only pertains to the federal government and does not apply to the provincial government.  

“This article can only be implemented if the actions of the provincial government challenge the executive authority of the federal government. This is not the case in the current scenario; hence all this talk about 149 being imposed is moot,” explains Zameer Ghumroo.  

When it comes to solving the governance crisis in Karachi, everyone wants to play politics, but no one wants to address the issues of the city genuinely, he said.