the land of Hyderabad
celebration to devastation
Should the local government system stay?
It has been nine months since the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) came to power. As with previous
regimes, the PPP has tried instituting fundamental change to the system of local governance, claiming that the system has failed to deliver. Aroosa Masroor critically evaluates these claims.
The system of local governance is not new to the country. In an irony of sorts, most dictators have sought to implement the system in Pakistan, while all democratic governments have sought to revoke the system once assuming power. There is an impulse under most democratic governments to revert back to what is popularly referred to as the district-commissioner system.
Many political commentators have pointed to vestiges of the colonial era as central to defining the lack of democratic culture in Pakistan. Interestingly enough, the district-commissioner system dates back to the British colonial era and was uprooted for the first time when General Ayub Khan introduced his brand of democracy in 1959. Khan advocated "Basic Democracy" at the local level. In conceptual terms, it was a progressive idea. In practice, the system ensured that real authority and power was vested in the president. The system set up five tiers of institutions. The lowest tier was the union council, followed by the Tehsil (subdistrict) council, Zila (district) council, divisional council, and finally, the provincial development advisory council. A similar system was instituted by General Zia-ul-Haq, who strengthened local councils to prolong his rule.
When General Pervez Musharraf assumed power, he promised the nation representative democracy at all levels. Towards that end, Musharraf changed the structure of the district administration by promulgating the Local Government Ordinance 2001, and provided the system 'constitutional protection' under Article 140-A of the Constitution. Under the system, Naimatullah Khan initially and then Syed Mustafa Kamal assumed charge as Karachi Nazim.
The system of local governance has been in place since the past seven years. With a new democratic government coming into power, there are rumblings emanating from government quarters regarding the efficacy of the local body system. Some have even proposed dissolving the City District Government Karachi (CDGK). While provinces have taken the independent initiative to reform the local government system, the government is intent upon reviving the old commissioner and deputy-commissioner system and repealing the Sindh Local Government Ordinance and Police Order 2001. Despite being a democratically elected government, the PPP wants to scrap the existing structure of local government, which, they claim, was created by military regimes to perpetuate unconstitutional and illegal rules.
The implications for such a decision are simple: provinces would regain power, with unelected bureaucrats running local affairs.
Eminent political economist Haris Gazdar believes that each form of government has its vested interests. "There is a reason why democratic governments support the commissioner system, and military regimes back the local government. With politicians at the provincial and federal level to compete against, democratic governments do not want to deal with an extra layer of politicians at the local level. Democratic governments also want to make up for lost time when military regimes take over, and do not want to complicate the system further during their rule. Conversely, in the case of military regimes, dictators encourage elections at the grass root level to create a new layer of weaker politicians whom they can easily challenge. It is an outcome of political negotiation. Dictators are not sincere with local bodies or politics."
In the case of 2005 local government elections, it was believed that the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) was voted into power through a lop-sided election so that the party nazims and councillors could offer unconditional support to former president General Musharraf when the country went to polls for general elections.
According to Gazdar, the debate on abolishing the local government arose when it lost its legitimacy after the questionable elections of 2005. His views are echoed by representatives of different political parties as well as union councillors.
Union councillors have similar complaints. "It has been three years, but we have not received a single paisa from the development budget. Town Nazims do not give you funds if you are affiliated with a rival political party," reveals Ratan Kumar, who is affiliated with the PPP and is a minority councillor in Lyari Town. Following his party's line of action, he believes that the district-commissioner system should be revived.
Gazdar comments that this is easier said than done and that it will be hard to revive the district-commissioner system. "Instead of doing away with the present system and introducing the commissioner system all over again, the government should strengthen the local governance system, which is especially weak in Karachi."
In the past seven years, none of the local elected representatives worked within the laws framed, raising criticism from all quarters. According to the annual review 2006-07 'Devolution and Human Development in Pakistan' conducted by the Social Policy and Development Center (SPDC), an independent think tank, limited public participation led to the concentration of power in the hands of a few 'local elite'.
"The actual problem," says Muqtida Mansoor, socio-economic analyst and Editorial Coordinator at Pakistan Press Foundation, "lies in our colonial mindset. Most of our leaders comprise either politicians with a feudal background, or military men. Unfortunately, the trend has pervaded into local councils, where the influential class has captured power as Nazims with enormous funds and authority." He said that the poor will continue to be exploited and have no meaningful participation in local councils until true devolution takes place and the system responds to the needs of the common man.
According to Mansoor, the federal government needed to transfer power to provincial governments so that they could, in turn, be motivated to grant autonomy to local governments. "The three tier system of the government has not proved to be efficient because the power to delegate rests with the federal government." He claimed that for the system to be effective in a city like Karachi, the police department should work under the district government.
The common man might not seem to grasp the nuances involved in the two systems, but tangible benefits seem to have made many biased against any move to scrap the local body system.
"Why are we so critical of all the right moves?" asks Abbas Raza, a banker and resident of SMCH Society. "A dictator may have given us the local governance system, but at least the system is doing something for the masses. There has been visible development over the past seven years in the form of better roads, public parks, and a proper sewage system. Both Naimatullah Khan and Mustafa Kamal have proved themselves."
Many citizens also feel that the commissioner system is less likely to deliver results owing to the lack of responsiveness of bureaucrats. In the case of local government, citizens can at least interact with their elected union councillors.
Sarfaraz Ahmed, spokesperson for the Jamat-e-Islami, adds that it is not just the system that needs to be reformed, but also the people and their attitudes. "We need to invest in honest human capital. The system would not be bad if the people running it were less corrupt and more sincere towards the common man, whose vote brings them to these responsible posts."
Dr Quratulain Bakhteari, an expert in community development, summed up the situation as quoted in the SPDC report: "The local government system has tremendous potential. If pursued consistently, it would establish a sound process of accountability between the candidate and a voter. All the system needs is improvement, vigilance and determination. It should be saved and strengthened."
Taxation without representation
While the system of local governance has come under increasing scrutiny, Cantonment Boards somehow continue to escape scrutiny. Many assert that it is not the city government but the hold of cantonment boards in different parts of the city that needs to end in the best interests of the city.
By Aisha Masood
About one-third of the city is under the control of cantonment boards;. Malir, Korangi Creek, Clifton and Manora are just some of the areas that are run by cantonment boards. In effect, there isn't much difference in the functions carried out by cantonment boards and the city government. The upkeep of infrastructure according to the stipulated law, as well as taking action against any violation of rules and regulations within the respective jurisdiction are critical to both systems. The issue of contention, however, is the ownership of cantonment boards across the city. Many point to the negligence and inefficiency of cantonment boards in handling public affairs, as cantonment boards are not representative bodies and thus cannot be held accountable by the general public.
The main source of revenue for cantonment boards is through taxation. "We are honourable citizens of this country, and as tax payers, we expect the tax-collecting institution to facilitate us," said Najeeb Zaman, a resident of Malir Cantonment. "Unless you live in one of the elite colonies, you are not guaranteed services or facilities," Zaman stated.
The absence of facilities and services provided by the cantonment board has led to a feeling of resentment among civilians. "Living in a cantonment area might have been a matter of prestige in the past," said Abdul Rahman, an old resident of Faisal Cantonment. "After all these years and the experiences that I have accrued along the way, I suggest to my children that they should settle anywhere but the cantonment areas." He complained that although he has been an honest tax payer for many years, what he has received in return is an air of arrogance and an attitude of superiority from military, as if to purposely make him feel that he was an inferior citizen.
Besides the collection of taxes, the cantonment boards have been generating revenue through other means as well. Outdoor advertisements on billboards, hoardings and ad vans, as well as charged parking systems are the more obvious examples. Cantonment officials have justified this revenue generation as necessary for development projects but the residents claim that no development in their respective areas.
Many residents claim that say the cantonment boards are "a one-man show" since the Cantonment Executive Officer (CEO) is the sole authority making decisions. "Look at the City District Government Karachi (CDGK). The Nazim is the obviously face of the government, but there is a city council that discusses projects and plans. There is a proposition and there is an opposition. Only through thorough debate do they reach on some sort of consensus. What do we have? A retired armed forces official?" Husain Nishat, a resident of Clifton Cantonment, rhetorically posed the question to Kolachi.
There are executive boards in different cantonments that hold meetings. Sources however disclosed to Kolachi that these meetings are not held frequently. Consequently, a number of cases remain pending and many of the residents' issues unaddressed. Residents of different cantonments also alleged that in some cases, there were no by-laws, and even if there were, they could be amended easily.
For many, there is ambiguity regarding the functions that cantonment boards are supposed to perform. Residents complain that many problems remain unresolved because the respective cantonment board holds other local departments responsible. Those departments, in turn, shift the blame back towards the cantonment board. "The victims of this blame game are the poor citizens whose problems remain unresolved," said Sohail Ahmed, a resident of KCB.
Another problem that some residents pointed out is the issuance of the birth and death certificates. They complained that they have to go through a tough procedure if they have moved out from cantonment jurisdiction to an area owned by the city government or vice versa.
In terms of development work or providing services, often the intervention of other civic bodies is necessary. However one authority often has to take permission from the other, and if permission is not granted, the work goes in pending. Therefore, many development works cannot be completed owing to the conflict between the city government and the cantonment boards.
In Defence Housing Authority (DHA), water tax is collected by Cantonment Board Clifton (CBC), while DHA arranges for water tanks to be sent on a weekly basis to different houses. This leads to an obvious confusion. According to Mrs Huma Naz Barlas, when water supply is infrequent, residents are supposed to complain to DHA even though taxes are no paid to them. "The DHA often cites this reason before refusing to send a water tanker. We then have to cntact private contractors, and they charge approximately Rs5,000 for filling up the tank each time," she told Kolachi.
Such chaos and confusion has led to obvious shortcomings being exposed in times of crisis. To take a simple example, during the monsoon in June 2007, huge billboards erected in cantonment areas came crashing down and killed many. In comparison, the CDGK had taken an initiative to remove huge billboards that were erected in its jurisdictions.
Although many cantonment officers also believe that there should be a sole authority to govern the city but they claim that this change has to be instituted from above. "If change is to take place, it has to be from the parliament level," said a cantonment officer on condition of anonymity.
In Nazimabad's Gole Market is an immensely popular shop that has been churning out Qulchas for the past 51 years and shows no signs of dying out
By Fasahat Mohiuddin
The man who started it all, Mohammed Siddiq, lives close by in North Nazimabad. He is now 80, but can still be found in his shop, which boasts a variety of Qulchas, such as Raughni Qulcha, and Saada Qulcha. There was a time when Siddiq made even Qeema Qulcha, but soaring prices have forced him to stop. If anyone is still desperate for a Siddiq-made Qeema Qulcha, though, he is prepared to make one, as long as the customers bring their own Qeema with them.
When Siddiq started out nearly half a century ago, he was on his own, but today, his seven sons have taken over.
"No one outside the family works in my shop," says Siddiq proudly. "I have taught my sons. That is why the quality has never gone down."
Even his grandchildren are ready to join the shop when they can. Siddiq's sons are now in their 20s and 30s, and having worked for so long alongside their father, all seven of them have assimilated his talent for making the perfect qulcha.
"They are also experts at making Baqur Khani," adds Siddiq.
Siddiq has no plans of expanding his shop. He fears the quality of his qulchas is bound to slip if he does. Outside his family, he trusts no one to be able to make them like he can. The shop opens every morning at 8:30 a.m. and closes every evening at 8:00 p.m. Its popularity is evident by its customers, who besiege the market from Gulshan-e-Iqbal, Gulsitan-e-Jauhar, and even from as far away as Clifton and Defence. According to Siddiq, former President Pervez Musharraf frequented it when he was young. So do cricketers Iqbal Qasim and Qasim Umar.
Popular though it is, the shop does not actually have a name. Siddiq acquired it in 1957 when he emigrated from Lahore by paying an advance of Rs1,300 and a monthly rent of Rs25 thereafter. Situated in the middle of an almost empty ground, it was one of just a few shops surrounded otherwise by wild bushes, but swarms with customers today.
It would not be swarming so were Siddiq not as diligent in his Qulcha making. He warns that it is a tricky business and requires ingredients that have been mixed "just right" for just the right amount of time.
"Back then I used to sell one Qulcha for just one aana," says Siddiq. He wistfully recalls how much making it all used to cost him in the early days.
"A 40-kilogram bag of flour used to cost of Rs4.5. The same amount of wood for Tandoor was for Rs2.25, and a two-and-a-half kg bag of till (small white seeds) cost Rs19 or less."
A frown creases Siddiq's forehead as he turns to the prices today.
"Now an 80-kilo bag of Maida costs Rs3,000 and till costs Rs190 per kilogram."
There is more.
"When we got a gas connection ten years ago, we used to pay a bill of Rs5,000. Today, we pay Rs20,000."
Despite the interference of high prices, it does not look as though this qulcha shop will be shutting down just yet. Asghar Hussain has been devouring Siddiq's Qulchas since he was a small child, and says he does not want to go anywhere else. He is a loyal customer who visits the shop so often he has taken to calling its owner 'Siddiq Bhai'. Hussain has passed down his love for 'Siddiq Bhais' Qulchas to the next generation.
"Whenever my three sons return from London, they demand Qulcha from this shop for breakfast, and always take some back with them," says Hussain.
Siddiq has but one source to attribute his success to.
"I am grateful to God for making all this possible."
By Adeel Pathan
Hyderabad, one of the oldest cities in South Asia, stands out amid the other cities of the country by boasting a beautiful landscape bedecked with architectural wonders and monuments.
One of these monuments is the Naval Rai Market clock tower, which has become such a landmark of the city that the market it is in has become known simply as Tower Market. Construction on the tower began in September 1911 and ended in February 1915, making it one of the oldest landmarks of the city. Located in the heart of Hyderabad at the northern end of Shahi Bazaar, the tower stands at 83 metres and has a clock face on all four sides. Its purpose was to ensure that everyone in the vicinity would be aware of the time. Even those too far away to see the grand structure with its flying buttresses on either side would be able to tell the time by hearing the clock strike.
The tower was built by the Hyderabad Municipality in the memory of its late vice-president, Rai Bahadur Diwan Naval Rai Shaukiram. It is public property owned by the municipal administration. Today, it can be seen towering above a grocery market below. To preserve it, the Hyderabad Development Authority has painted over the original burnt clay bricks with lime wash. For restoration purposes, all the brick joints have been painted over and all cracks have been filled with mortar.
Meanwhile, the Shah Makki Fort, a historical site in the city, is an even older landmark of Hyderabad. It is also known as Katcha Qila (mud fort), and is one of two such forts in the city (the other is Pacca Qila). Originally built of mud bricks, its past is as murky as its fašade. It is believed that the fort was constructed by Ghulam Shah Kalhoro to protect the mausoleum of Hazrat Shah Makki, who arrived in that part of the world in 1260. The fort has two gates, both in the south: one is the main gate, and the other is the entrance to the shrine of the saint. Despite being built of mud, it has withstood the test of time and the weather for over 200 years.
With its nine watch towers plastered with mud and lime mortar, Katcha Qila stands out on the hill at Shah Makki Road, and can be seen from as far away as the Latifabad railway crossing. Inside, the fort holds a number of unidentified graves, believed to be those of noblemen and elite of the Kalhoro and Talpur period. The mausoleum of Shah Makki is on the west side of the fort, with a central dome resting upon a polygonal dome. The interior is built with Jaipur marble, and there was a time when its exterior is covered with the finest porcelain tiles, but none of it remains today.
By Sabeen Jamil
When Naseem Sohail (not his real name) got married last year, had little idea how fatal celebrations could be until his brother was killed by a stray gunshot during the wedding.
The gunshot came from a spate of aerial firing, a traditional way of celebrating weddings in Sohail's family. Sohail himself had done the same at weddings before. His brother was rushed to hospital, but died on the way. Devastated, the family lodged an FIR against the people who fired the shots.
When it was discovered that two of the shooters were Sohail's cousins, however, the families settled the matter amongst themselves before any police action could be taken. The third was quick to remind Siddiqi that he had been shooting at Sohail's own request.
Despite the dangers of aerial firing, there are few official complaints when such celebrations go wrong. Sources at Madagar 15 estimate that only eight percent of aerial firing cases are registered, and very few FIRs lodged. Data collected by the Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) states that since 2003, only 1,442 FIRs have been registered in Karachi under section 188 of Pakistan Penal Code, which covers crimes involving the use of a firearm. According to CPLC, the least percentage of these complaints pertains to cases of aerial firing.
Waseem Ahmed, Capital City Police (CCP) Officer Karachi, says that the main responsibility to report such cases lies with the civil society.
"It is the civil society that notifies the police lodges an FIR against the incidents of aerial firing and resultant injuries or causalities."
Ahmed pointed out that according to the law, cases of aerial firing amount to murder cases, but the majority of the people are unaware of it.
"The CPP Karachi has now decided to take strict action against those involved in
To spread word of the new stance of the CCP, related advertisements are being published in newspapers.
"People can register their complaints against such incidents at Madadgar 15 or their nearest police stations," says Ahmed.
However, citizens are not optimistic that such a move will be very successful.
"Advertisements are not enough," says Talib Yousaf a resident of North Nazimabad. "The police rarely take action when we complain."
To illustrate his point, he said that people in his area had registered several complaints at Madadgar 15 against aerial firing at weddings or at gatherings between rival political parties, but so far, nothing had been done about them.
Even if complaints had been taken note of, it is too late for Sohail's brother. The tragedy at his wedding changed Siddiqi's life, but he still does not blame his friends.
"They could not be handed over to the police," he says. "It was an accident."
But he does not see his friends anymore. It is too close a reminder of how his brother died.
"Local govt system has failed to deliver"
"The present local government system has failed to deliver to the masses, and should not prevail," declared Agha Siraj Durrani, Sindh Minister for Local Government, in an interview with The News.
Durrani revealed that "high-level" meetings are being held to amend the local government system.
"The top priorities of the present government are the law and order situation and the economic devastation in the nation. At time, we are unable to handle all the issues," he admitted.
Turning to the local government system, Durrani said that although Karachi has fared well under it, the rest of the province, particularly Interior Sindh, had not benefited.
"The problems of the people in Interior Sindh have not been resolved under this present local government system. The whole country is opposed to it," claimed Durrani. "It is a system introduced by a dictator, which is why it should not continue after its term lapses in April 2009."
In place of the present local government system, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) is attempting to reintroduce the magisterial system, a move that has been opposed by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement.
According to Durrani, nazims in the local government had done their jobs but had been unable to reach to the poor people of the country.
"The people of the street are looking for the benefits which have not been delivered," he maintained.
There have been allegations that the local government system is corrupt. Durrani, who backed the allegations, added that he could not prove them, as all records pertaining to the local government had been destroyed on December 27 when Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. He asserted that the failure of the local government was recognised by the masses, who had raised "a hue and cry over (this system)."
Menwhile, talking to Kolachi, National Reconstruction Bureau (NRB) Chairman Dr Asim Hussain said: "The present government does not have the power to reintroduce the 1979 executive magistracy system (old commissioner system). The old system can only be revived through a constitutional amendment, and no party had the power to unilaterally change the system. The only other way to revive the system was if the President scrapped the local government system."
Hussain stressed that the present local government system will remain in place, but some drastic amendments will be made and its nomenclature can be changed.
The NRB chairman agreed that this system has abolished the urban and rural division and has delivered results at grass root level like Tehsils and districts.
He contended that if the old system of 1979 executive magistracy system was re-introduced, it will further make bureaucracy strong. According to Hussain, the NRB was trying to ensure that this manifestation of reintroducing the old system is laid out in lucid terms to the government.
Hussain said that the NRB was trying to introduce audit of local government through auditor general.
He stated that said the afore-mentioned suggestions and proposals have been incorporated in a "consultative document" that has been sent to all provinces. The NRB is still awaiting replies from the provinces.