The department responsible for planning Karachi’s construction only has two qualified people working at it.
The Master Plan Group of Offices (MPGO), which consists of the Master Plan Department, Planning and Urban Development Department and Design Bureau, are responsible for planning how Karachi grows and making sure the city’s population has basic needs like housing schemes, commercial centers, educational institutions other amenities.
Professional architects, town planners, region planners and engineers are supposed to be doing this job but only two of the MPGO’s 150 employees are professionals.
Senior director and architect Muhammad Wilayat, and Grade-19 director and town planner Muhammad Akhtar are the only ones with professional degrees. The rest of the departments are filled with people recruited in the 80s and 90s on lower posts, like clerks, helpers and steno-typists, who have now been promoted to positions like deputy directors, assistant technical directors and assistant research officers.
A senior director who recently retired from the group told SAMAA Digital that the officers working at the MPGO are ‘non-technical’ and cannot do the future planning for the city.
“Officers working in the MPGO are only managing daily routine work since they are not technical [officers] and do not know anything regarding the future planning of the city,” he added.
It is alarming that Karachi is growing rapidly without proper planning, he said, adding that the city needs proper town planners, architects and experts, otherwise Karachi will be left to ruin. The official said that because there were no professionals recruited in the department for years, there were no backups either.
“When Iftikhar Qaimkhani sahab was head of the MPGO, we both sat together and decided to ask the Sindh government for professional recruitment in the department,” he said.
“We wrote several letters to the authorities for those recruitments from 2017 but nothing was done,” he added.
Urban planner Arif Hasan told SAMAA Digital that the Master Plan Department is a good institution and has served Karachi a lot in terms of planning and research. But political appointments have destroyed the MPGO, he said.
In 2011, the government handed over control of the MPGO to the Sindh Building Control Authority. The MPGO is supposed to keep a bird’s eye view over construction plans to monitor the city’s growth according to the population. It oversees construction in the city and supervises the SBCA.
But when the MPGO was put under the building control authority, many competent and honest officers quit.
“The MPGO is being targeted on a political basis, same as the other departments being run under the Sindh government,” added Hasan.
Very competent and qualified officers were working in the MPGO and also worked for the Strategic Master Plan 2020 from 2001 to 2009, but they were all left out. Most of them retired and others left before their retirement age because of the unprofessional environment in the department.
The KDA Labour Union patron-in-chief, Muhammad Ashraf, who has also filed a case in the Sindh High Court to have control of the MPGO returned to the KDA after its revival in 2016, confirmed that unqualified officials are working on technical posts.
The departments had been part of the KDA since its establishment in 1957. But after the Sindh Local Government Ordinance was passed in 2001, these departments were all placed under the control of the City District Government Karachi. In 2016, the Sindh government restored the KDA to its original status but didn’t return a number of departments that it once had control over.
“I have filed a petition in the Sindh High Court, appealing for it to restore the KDA to its 1957 position when the Design Bureau, Master Plan Department and Planning Department were part of it,” Ashraf explained.
A senior SBCA official also thinks its difficult to say no to his boss, the director-general of the SBCA who is also heading the MPGO. “The should work as a separate entity, as it is a department working on the future planning of the city and we would feel comfortable highlighting any matter with different department heads,” he said.
Local Government Secretary Rohsan Ali Shaikh says the Sindh government is well aware of the situation at the MPGO and will fix it “soon”. Their solution–a separate Master Plan Authority staffed by professionals.