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Sindh Master Plan Authority’s only town planner mysteriously suspended

He refused to carve out a petrol pump plot in Scheme 33

SAMAA | - Posted: Sep 25, 2021 | Last Updated: 3 weeks ago
Posted: Sep 25, 2021 | Last Updated: 3 weeks ago

A map of Karachi land values by ECIL for an old master plan 2020.

The only town planner with the Sindh Master Plan Authority has been suspended but in a departure from the usual protocol, the government has not specified the reason why.

On August 23, Local Government Secretary Najam Ahmed Shah issued the official notice: “With the approval of the competent authority, Mr Akhtar Ali, Town Planner deputy director (Grade 18) SMPA is hereby placed under suspension with immediate effect.”

The secretary did not mention who this “competent authority” was and under what charges or on what grounds the town planner was being suspended.

Normally if any government officer is suspended the charges against them are mentioned.

Akhtar Ali is the only town planner at the authority. The other two officers are non-technical deputy directors, Rafiq Ahmed Khuhro and Abdul Qayyum Baloch. They joined the Master Plan Group of Offices some 15 years ago.

On the same day, the authority’s senior director, Waqar Memon, issued an office order with the same wording. It went on to say that Deputy Director Rafiq Ahmed Khuhro would now oversee Scheme 33, Gulzar-e-Hijri in place of Akhtar Ali.

Two urban development departments work under the authority: The Urban Development-UD I and II.

Khuhro is already in charge of UD-I and with this change he has been assigned responsibility for UD-II. His jobs include planning and development such as layout approvals, KDA schemes, sub-divisions and plot amalgamation.

Senior Director Waqar Memon, who is in charge of the authority, told SAMAA Digital that he received the suspension orders for Akhtar Ali from the Sindh Secretariat.

“Jab koi kaam ooper walay keh rahe hon, aur banda us ko na karay, tu yehi hota hay,” he said, when asked if he knew why it had happened.

Memon went on to say that officers should obey the commands of their seniors, otherwise they should be ready to face the consequences. And indeed, this appears to have been the case with Akhtar Ali.

Memon accepted that the man who had replaced Akhtar Ali, Khuhro, was a non-technical officer, and not a town planner, engineer or architect as the position demanded. “But what can I do?” he said. They will look for a replacement soon.

Sources said that Akhtar Ali was suspended on the orders of higher-ups running the affairs of the local government department. The suspension order neither came from the LG Secretary or from the SMPA senior director.

The suspended officer was being ordered to make some change to a layout plan for a 20-acre piece of land in Scheme 33, Gulzar-e-Hijri and approve the revised plan. “The order was to allocate 2 acres out of total 20 acres for a petrol pump,” sources said.

The land belongs to a cooperative housing society. Its layout plan is already being questioned in the National Accountability Bureau.

Town Planner Akhtar Ali declined to follow these orders. He told SAMAA Digital that the “competent authority” did not frame any charges against him in its notification and office order.

SAMAA Digital tried to contact Local Government Minister Nasir Hussain Shah for two consecutive days, but he was did not respond. This story will be updated as and when he does.

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