Level serious allegations against each other
Officials of the Karachi District Central have been at loggerheads over advertisement sites in the district.
A few videos of Central District Municipal Corporation officials and an advertiser recently went viral on social media. In one of the clips, a man is seen demanding Rs250,000 from the advertiser for not dismantling his hoarding installed at a residential building near Nagan Chowrangi.
The man who demands money is actually a member of the team that came to dismantle the advertisement site. The advertiser tries to cut a deal with the man, but he is not willing to accept anything less than Rs250,000.
Last week, a private team reached Nagan Chowrangi with a crane, truck and other machinery to dismantle a gigantic hoarding. As soon as it started dismantling the hoarding, the advertiser reached the spot and tried to intervene.
Central DMC Advertisement Director Shamoona Sadaf reached the site too. She told SAMAA Digital that she asked the private team members to stop the operation and identify themselves.
“I asked them who permitted them to dismantle the hoarding,” she said. “A team member, Abdullah, replied that they were there on the directives of Central DMC Municipal Commissioner Muhammad Ali Zaidi.”
Sadaf said the municipal commissioner did not inform her about the operation. She said the advertiser told her that a team was at the site to dismantle the hoarding.
“Abdullah made my video and accused me of supporting the advertiser by trying to prevent dismantling of the hoarding,” she said.
Sadaf said that being the Central DMC advertisement director, the municipal commissioner should have informed her but he did not. She claimed the man who demanded Rs250,000 from the advertiser was Abdullah.
The advertisement director said the municipal commissioner does not issue her written orders about operations against illegal or irregular advertisements in the district.
“If the municipal commissioner can arrange machinery for a private team, why the same facility is not provided to us,” she questioned.
Reached for comment, Central DMC Municipal Commissioner Muhammad Ali Zaidi had a different story. He admitted that he sent the team along with machinery to dismantle irregular and illegal advertisement sites before the monsoon season.
Zaidi told SAMAA Digital that he had no other option. “I have repeatedly directed the advertisement director to dismantle illegal and irregular advertisements, but she has ignored my directives over the last one month,” he said. “I have asked her time and again to launch an operation to clear all such advertisements.”
Zaidi said the Central DMC would issue a show-cause notice to the advertisement director for not following the directives.
“The Supreme Court will ask me about illegal billboards in District Central, not her,” the municipal commissioner said. “I informed Central Deputy Commissioner MB Dharejo about the situation and he permitted me to dismantle it.”
Zaidi, who took charge as the Central municipal commissioner a couple of months ago, said he has tried streamlining Central DMC departments since his appointment.
“Around 90% advertisement sites in the district are either irregular or illegal,” he said. “But the advertisement department is not taking any action, despite several intimations.”
He said the advertiser trapped the team by offering money and filming it. “Private teams are not bound of the administration, so they deal with advertisers on sites,” Zaidi said.
The same thing happened in this case, according to the municipal commissioner. The contractor made a deal with the advertiser.
“We have had the advertisement site dismantled by another contractor,” Zaidi said. He said a warning letter would be issued to the advertisement director for being negligent in her duties.
Zaidi said Advertisement Director Shamoona Sadaf has a work force of 100-150 DMC employees. These employees were recruited in the MQM tenure from 2005 to 2009, according to the municipal commissioner. Most of them are her relatives and obey her.
Former Central DMC chairman Rehan Hashmi said Sadaf served as the advertisement director for two years in his tenure.
“I handled Shamoona Sadaf too and appointed a more powerful and influential officer to keep a watch on her activities,” Hashmi said.
The approach of the municipal commissioner was not right in this particular case, he said.
The former DMC chairman said the Sindh government has yet to finalise and notify advertisement by laws, which is why every district uses them in a way that suits its interests.
Both the municipal commissioner and the advertisement director are working for their own vested interests, Hashmi added.