By the time the sun set on Musharraf’s system in 2010, the city government (run by the MQM) was much poorer. The PPP was now running the show so it started making laws to undo the old city management system.
Under Musharraf Karachi had 18 towns. The PPP deleted this and said Karachi would have six districts instead. Nazims were out, mayors were in. DCOs and EDOs were out, commissioners were back.
In fact, the Sindh government has legislated 20 times on local government since 2010. Other than amendments, it made new laws. The table gives the laws and highlights the changes made in each one.
|Date of Passing||Title of law||Major changes made|
|15 Feb 2010||Sindh Local Govt (Amendment) Act, 2010||Dissolves Musharraf’s 2001 law, kicks out nazims, says administrators will run the show until elections. Says request ECP in a month|
|26 March 2010||Sindh Local Govt (Second Amendment) Act, 2010||Specifies administrators should be grade 19+|
|26 March 2010||Sindh Local Govt (Third Amendment) Act, 2010||Specifies elections should be requested in 2.5 months|
|5 June 2010||Sindh Local Govt (Fourth Amendment) Act, 2010||Extends request to ECP to hold elections in 6mths instead, extends to 9mths deadline for elections|
|28 Sept 2010||Sindh Local Govt (Fifth Amendment) Act, 2010||Scraps deadlines and says when the govt feels like holding elections|
|13 July 2011||Sindh (Repeal of Sindh Local Govt Ord, 2001 and Revival of Sindh Local Govt Ord, 1979) Act, 2011||Brings back 1979 system|
|1 Oct 2012||Sindh Peoples Local Govt Act, 2012||Bring back some shape of 2001 system under MQM pressure|
|21 February 2013||Sindh (Repeal of Sindh Peoples Local Govt Act, 2012 & Revival of Sindh Local Govt Ord, 1979) Act, 2013||Brings back 1979 law under rival pressure of nationalists|
|19 August 2013||Sindh High Density Development Board (Amendment) Act, 2013||Sets up a Sindh High Density Development Board|
|19 August 2013||Sindh Local Govt Act, 2013||Brings in the local govt system the PPP likes|
|19 September 2013||Lyari Development Authority (Revival & Amending) Act, 2013||Revives it|
|19 September 2013||Malir Development Authority (Revival & Amending) Act, 2013||Revives it|
|31 October 2013||Sindh Local Govt (Amendment) Act, 2013||Deletes Town & Master Planning, building control powers|
|7 February 2014||Sindh Building Control (Amendment) Act, 2014||Revives 1979 law and adds town planning to it and master plan|
|10 February 2014||Sindh Solid Waste Management Board Act, 2014||Set up a solid waste management board|
|24 February 2014||Sindh Environmental Protection Act, 2014||Sets up an environment protection agency|
|20 October 2014||Sindh Local Govt (Amendment) Act, 2014||Makes election rules clearer|
|24 February 2015||Sindh Local Govt (Amendment) Act, 2015||Changes and details administrative units|
|8 May 2015||Sindh Local Govt (Second Amendment) Act, 2015||Goes into detail on town committees|
|12 August 2015||Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (Amendment) Act, 2015||Amends Karachi Water and Sewerage Board Act,1996, adds punishments|
|12 August 2015||Sindh Local Govt (Third Amendment) Act, 2015||Specifies youth and women in union committees|
|19 January 2016||Sindh Local Govt (Amendment) Act, 2016||Changes secret ballot to show of hands|
|21 March 2016||Karachi Development Authority (Revival and Amending) Act, 2016||Revives 1957 law|
|26 April 2016||Sindh Local Govt (Second Amendment) Act, 2016||Change in election details|
|27 April 2016||Sindh Local Govt (Third Amendment) Act, 2016||Adds supervision instructions and allows municipalities to get big businesses to adopt parks|
|27 April 2016||Sindh Local Govt (Fourth Amendment) Act, 2016||Goes into member details|
|29 September 2016||Sindh Mass Transit Authority Act, 2014||Sets up mass transit authority|
|6 March 2017||Sindh Local Govt (Amendment) Act, 2017||Clarifies vice chairman detail|
|8 March 2017||Sindh Food Authority Act, 2016||Sets up food authority|
|30 April 2018||Karachi Development Authority (Sindh Amendment) Act, 2018||Allows amenity plot conversion for mass transit|
|7 February 2019||Sindh Local Govt (Second Amendment) Act, 2019||Adds secretary, local govt|
The 2013 law was the most radical because it undid Musharraf’s system and brought in the one the PPP wanted (which was based on the 1979 commissioner system). It was made in August but by October we began to see the first of a series of changes being made to tweak it.
The most important changes were to take away master planning of Karachi from the KMC.
In the October change, buried on page 7 is barely one and a half lines that say No. 32 of the previous version of the law is omitted. No. 32 of the 2013 law was about town planning and building control.
The next calculated move was to freshen up the powers of who gets to build what in Karachi. So by 2014, that No. 32 was inserted into a 1979 law on building control, which was renamed and dressed up as the Sindh Building Control (Amendment) Act, 2014. That trick is how over the years, the Sindh government has shuffled around the powers for major institutions that provide services to run Karachi.
Plus, the Sindh government cleverly gave itself the power to take over any city functions it wanted (Section 74).
Another sneaky change was made to push the deadline for informing the ECP to hold local government elections. It went from 30 days to 2.5 months and then six months and then whenever the government felt like it. (I am sure there are perfectly political justifications but no elections were held from 2009 to 2015, so go figure). No wonder the PPP did not hold local government elections and just ran the city on unelected administrators and not elected mayors.
When local government elections were held in 2015, the MQM won, but by this time the PPP had removed so many powers from KMC legally that the mayor was just a figurehead.
On the other hand, the PPP had been giving more powers to the district municipal corporations (West, East, Central, South, Korangi, Malir). They could collect property tax, tolls, taxes on professions, markets, fees on births, marriages, adoptions and feasts, billboards, cinemas and motor vehicles.
Mayor Wasim Akhtar has been extremely vocal about this since he came to office in 2016. His office shared a slab of files with photocopies of all the letters written to the chief minister. Impotent letter after impotent letter pointed out what the mayor’s office believed were its powers that had been taken away. In one particularly piteous one, he said his men were not allowed to collect a fee on cows from Ansoo Goth.
Wasim Akhtar went through a list of taxes and what he could not charge because the power to do so had been given to someone else. He can’t collect a conservancy tax because it is managed by the new waste management board. Drainage tax? The KWSB has it. Fee for slaughtering animals? His response is tart: “Nothing will come from this. Can you run Karachi on a fee to slaughter animals or Karachi Zoo’s entry fee?”
The fee on plot conversions is collected by the Sindh Building Control Authority. What about the fee to set up markets on land owned by KMC? He throws his hands up again. “What, you expect me to run KMC on the rent of one shop when we have a Rs10 million shortage?”
His analogies are bit dramatic. He and other city government bureaucrats have been reduced to idioms like “jharoo dena”. He can’t collect a toll on roads and bridges because that is with the transport department at the Sindh government.
“I just want to tell you that the CM made a statement that we should generate revenue from our own department. So I told him two things. One, the departments that have been given to me, according to SGLA 2013, that are with me, they are not all with me. By notification, you have taken them. Now your point that I should generate revenue. So perhaps the CM can tell me himself which department I can generate revenue from?”
And what is the CM’s response to the mayor’s protests? “He’s the chief executive,” Wasim Akhtar replied. “What does he say…? He’s a finance man.”
Indeed, no one can say that CM Murad Ali Shah doesn’t understand the math. He was Sindh’s finance minister after all, before he became chief minister.
What did the local government minister of the time make of this? Was the Sindh government happy paying KMC salaries? Why had the PPP stripped KMC of its powers?
Saeed Ghani’s response was stark: “They were never a part of KMC.” Building control was never a part of KMC. The Master Plan group of offices were never part of KMC.
The same argument is made for the water board. KWSB is working under the 1996 law, according to which the Sindh government (not the mayor) has the right to appoint the person to run it. That person can be the mayor as well and when Mustafa Kamal was mayor, he did actually run the KWSB briefly. Now they have the local government minister running it.
Ghani says that the mayor never had garbage collection duties. Garbage collection and sweeping was the job of the six DMCs and it was KMC’s job to clean the nallahs. “Despite the financial crunch, the provincial government has given KMC Rs550 million to clean the nullahs,” the CM even said.
Saeed Ghani means, for the PPP, these city government powers were never part of KMC before 2001. Before Musharraf, the Master Plan department was part of the Karachi Development Authority. So the PPP appears to believe that the Musharraf-MQM decade when the CDGK was all powerful was an aberration of sorts—an inflated KMC made possible by a dictator’s favouritism. The real local government is that which was laid out under the 1979 law and brought in a reincarnated shape in 2013.
Ghani admits that what the Sindh government did take away from KMC was local taxes (billboard auctions), schools and health, except certain major hospitals. But he hastens to add: “We have not taken them and kept them with ourselves.” These items are with the six DMCs, which are just as much a part of local government. “This is devolution,” he adds. “You devolve these things.” Out of six DMCs, the MQM has four.
Mayor Wasim Akhtar disagrees that you can call this devolution. He and the MQM see this as centralisation of power and not devolution. He argues that if you take departments and powers away from the KMC and just put them under the provincially managed local government, that is centralisation of power. It just masquerades as devolution to lower tiers of government.
“What devolution? This is not devolution. They’ve taken all the subjects back with themselves,” he says. “They have water, sewage, building control, master plan, transport. How is centralisation devolution?”
A few experts on local government agreed. Dr Niaz Murtaza and Dr Saeed Ahmed Rid, writing in 2017 summed the equation up: Many key things in city government were just “reassigned to the province in the 2013 system”.
Timeline: How local governments have unfolded
1958: Ayub Khan’s military regime with no provincial and national governments
1959: Basic Democracies Order, 1959 creates first rural governments
1960: Municipal Administration Ordinance, 1960, creates urban municipal corporations
1969: System disbanded after collapse of Ayub’s government
1971: Zulfikar Ali Bhutto elected, democracy restored, Basic Democracies deleted.
1973 New constitution makes local government a provincial responsibility, Sindh People’s Local Government Ordinance, 1972 made
1972-1978: No LG elections held
1977: ZAB elected government toppled
1977-1988: Zia-ul-Haq’s military dictatorship. Identical LG laws for four provinces.
1979: Sindh Local Government Ordinance, 1979 enacted and elections held. Abdul Sattar Afghani becomes mayor.
1983: LG elections held. Abdul Sattar Afghani becomes mayor a second time.
1987: LG elections held. Farooq Sattar becomes mayor.
1988-1990: Benazir Bhutto’s first term as PM. No LG elections held.
1990-1993: Nawaz Sharif’s first term as PM. No LG elections held.
1993-1996: BB’s second term as PM. No LG elections held.
1997-1999: Nawaz Sharif’s second term as PM. No LG elections held.
To read the next article of the series on Local Government, click on the image below