Despite political differences and longstanding rivalry, Sindh Local Government Minister Saeed Ghani and Karachi Mayor Wasim Akthar addressed a press conference together on Thursday where they spoke about putting aside their differences to work for the people.
The two have long been at loggerheads about local government powers in the city. Akhtar also butted heads with former minister Jam Khan Shoro. The MQM, of which Akhtar is a member, has been vocal in its demand for more powers for the mayor.
“We will butt heads sometimes but when it comes to helping the people we won’t fight,” said Ghani, who is from the PPP. He said that the powers awarded to the local government, and notably the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, under the law should be given to them.
He said he will try to ensure this and go to the chief minister if he has to. He expects no roadblocks from the CM or his party.
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Part of their plan is to hold a meeting with Karachi’s district municipal corporation chairmen to hear their issues and help them resolve them. Ghani said he wants to use UC councilors and other lower level local government representatives to resolve the people’s issues.
“I can’t solve everything – no one can,” he said, adding that they should make use of the people they have on board.
He said they will be working on traffic law enforcement and the removal of encroachments.
However, Ghani clarified that when he says he will delegate powers to the KMC and mayor, he means the powers already granted to them under the LG Act, 2013.
“At this time, we can only act under the existing law,” he said, adding that the mayor believes that they do not have all the functions that the law has given to them.
The next step, which they haven’t spoken about yet, is getting them more powers. Ghani said eventually, Karachi’s local government should have the same powers devolved to them as other cities in the country do.
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When asked whether the rivalry between parties, specifically rivalries in certain neighbourhoods, would hinder their efforts, Ghani said if the MQM mayor and PPP LG minister want to fix things, they won’t stop each other from working.
“We have political differences, and that’s okay, but we need to fulfill the responsibilities we have as elected representatives,” the minister said.
Surprisingly, he also spoke about room for improvement in the LG Act. By us not “accepting” the law, the law doesn’t change, he said.
“If I think there’s something that can be improved in the law I will take it to the assembly. The mayor can also ask his party’s representatives to bring up any issues or suggestions in the assembly,” he said, adding that they must make use of the mechanism in place to improve laws.
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One reporter asked what happens when ‘terrorists’ and ‘thieves’, referring to the MQM and PPP respectively, get together. He was referring to comments made by members of either party against their political opponents.
“When we weren’t meeting you people were worried. Now we’re together and you’re more worried,” laughed Ghani. Politics isn’t a bad thing, he said.
“If I think as a PPP minister and he as an MQM mayor, we won’t get anything done,” he said, repeating that they are putting aside their political differences to work for the people.
“We have the same views on this. We are sitting here to resolve issues together. We have to separate politics from our responsibilities,” said Akhtar.
“We want to resolve people’s issues, not exacerbate them,” commented Ghani.