Just days prior to the conclusion of its five-year term, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) led Sindh government reinstated various former administrative and financial powers and conferred new ones upon the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) – a move which is being viewed as an attempt to influence general elections.
The outgoing government, apart from reinstating administrative and financial powers of yesteryears to the KMC and other local government bodies, conferred new powers, which predominantly revolve around spheres such as healthcare, education, sustenance, essential urban facilities, and economic growth.
Notably, the Local Government Amendment Act of 2023 gives the KMC the authority to consolidate numerous taxes and delegate their collection to a third-party entity. Previously, under the Local Government Act of 2013, the KMC was vested with the capacity to levy and collect 15 distinct taxes, including fire tax, conservancy tax, drainage tax, entertainment tax, fire and building safety inspection tax, and cess tax, among others. However, the amended law dispenses with the need for separate and individualised collection of these taxes by KMC personnel. Instead, the corporation is now empowered to amalgamate multiple tax streams and entrust the collection process to a designated contractor.
Commenting on the matter, elected representatives from Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) alike were of the view that the PPP had only reinstated existing powers and gave new ones to local bodies to influence the general elections. “Basically what the PPP has done is empower its own Mayor in Karachi, so that whatever work he does, the PPP can claim credit for it and use it for their election campaign,” explained Muhammad Yousuf, Chairman of New Karachi Town, who is affiliated with JI.
“If the PPP was genuinely committed to improve local governance it would have further devolved powers to the grassroots level like town and union councils.”
Abdul Rahman Motiwala, the newly elected Vice Chairman of Saddar Town, concurring with Yousuf, asserted that all the powers reinstated by the provincial government were inherently vested in local governments. “The PPP has only now restored these powers due to its vested political interests,” he remarked. Motiwala, like Yousuf, was of the view that the PPP should have delegated powers to lower levels, “which would ensure that concerned councillors and towns would be held accountable for vital matters such as water supply and waste management.”
However, Najmi Alam, the Parliamentary Leader of the PPP within the City Council of Karachi, whilst defending his party’s decision, said that the PPP was the only party serious about delegating powers to local bodies. “This is evidenced by the fact that the current Mayor of Karachi, Murtaza Wahab, when he was administrator of the KMC tried to bolster its financial ability but the JI opposed it and it failed to materialise. Now, we have given it protection of the law and are trying to engage with JI and other parties to come together and see that these powers are only meant to enhance KMC’s revenue,” said Alam while talking to The Express Tribune.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 20th, 2023.
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