COMMENT: Behind Musharraf’s praise for the city nazim
By Sarfaraz Ahmed
In his recent visit to Karachi, President Pervez Musharraf gave a timely lease of life to the Jamaat-backed city Nazim’s ambitions to seek re-election in the country’s largest city when at the launching ceremony of the rehabilitation projects of MT Khan Road and MA Jinnah Road, he showered lavish praise on the former JI city chief for the work the city district government has done under his leadership.
The projects are being undertaken by the Karachi Port Trust (which falls under the domain of the Muttahida’s Babar Ghori) under Tameer-e-Karachi package and will be completed in 15 months for over Rs 700 million. The rains that lashed Karachi in July-August 2003 and badly damaged the city road network had forced the government to work out a long-term strategy aimed at the development and rehabilitation of city roads, particularly main arteries.
The president said these projects were presented by City Nazim Naimatullah Khan at Governor`s House. His proposals envisaged that various corporations and organizations that use the city roads should also play a part for their development and improvement. President Musharraf said he was happy to announce that all had agreed to the proposal and soon took the initiative in this regard.
The smile on Mr Naimatullah Khan’s face was rare. A former taxation lawyer in his seventies, Mr Khan’s message that his work had been appreciated, he was out there and it was now his legitimate right to reclaim the top city position once the next municipal elections are held next year, got across. Whether or not Naimatullah Khan’s ambitions this time are misplaced, given the MQM’s plan to take part in the coming elections, Musharraf’s praise is something which is all the more important to further his ambitions despite his failing health.
President Musharraf was full of commendations for Mr Khan in the presence of so many people. And they included people from the MQM, the archrival of the JI and the MMA, such as Sindh Governor Dr Ishratul Ibad and federal minister Babar Ghori. Was it sheer frankness on Musharraf’s part to call a spade a spade (although much to the chagrin of the MQM there), or did the occasion afford him an opportunity to send a strong signal to the MQM just before the next municipal elections? In his recent local channel interview, Musharraf prevented the MQM from solely taking the credit for Sindh fishermen’s relief in which rangers were ordered to stop fishing, by saying that it was he who ordered the Rangers to stop operations and let the local people do the fishing and since they (the MQM) were in government they also had a role in it. Or it was purely aimed at garnering more support for him from a person representing Musharraf’s own constituency of local governments. In Sindh, particularly in Karachi, it is highly crucial given the city’s population and the diverse representation of various communities.
Therefore, it surely can’t be one-way traffic for Mr Khan! Gen Musharraf’s support to him could also come handy to the former given that the MMA has planned to make Karachi the centre of its anti-Musharraf protest campaign in which the city nazim’s role is required to be absolutely neutral if not entirely favourable.
There’s no denying the fact that the city has seen some development these years. The Muttahida Qaumi Movement, the largest party of Sindh’s urban areas, has to confine its role from the apparatus of the provincial and national governments, given the fact that it boycotted the 2000 local bodies elections. Ever since the MQM came into power as a result of the October 2002 elections, the city has been a victim of a serious rift between the two parties.
The wrangling between the two has continued for some time, but development work continues in this city. The MQM, which is all set to take part in the next local council elections, claims that the JI could not lay claim to the development of the city alone, simply because the Sindh government’s planning and finance departments supported the city government in the timely execution of development plans.
The city government has recently speeded up its pace of activity and the city is bustling with development. The MQM finds it a ploy aimed at brightening prospects for the next municipal elections, saying that a number of projects which should have been initiated and completed a long time ago were now being started in view of the fast approaching elections. In this respect, the MQM’s Wasim Akhtar, who is the Sindh chief minister’s adviser on local government, had sounded a note of warning to not only the city government but also the contractors involved of the projects. According to the adviser, the Sindh government will stop funds to Karachi’s local bodies violating the rules specified in the Sindh Local Government Ordinance (SLGO), 2001. The City District Government of Karachi could initiate different actions simultaneously, but under the rules specified in SLGO, 2001, it could not carry out liabilities for the next set up, according to the adviser.
In this respect, he also warned contractors involved in CDGK contracts in various city projects that they should be careful while finalizing the contracts these days as the next government would not be bound to pay losses and their dues.
Let’s see what the next few months have in store for Karachi vis-à-vis the anti-Musharraf-campaign and Musharraf-Karachi city government, Muttahia-Musharraf and Muttahida-JI relations.