As if the legendary Sukkur Barrage, Lansdowne Bridge, Ayub Bridge, Masoom Shah Jo Minaro, Clock Tower, Sadh Bello, Satiyan jo Asthan were not enough to rank Sukkur among the most interesting cities for heritage in Sindh, the mayor has decided that Rs90 million has to be spent on adding the world’s eleventh tallest flag to it.
The project has been placed on the walking track opposite Lab-e-Mehran. The flag is a massive 84 by 56 feet on top of a 300-foot high flagpole and is meant to pay tribute to frontline COVID-19 workers.
The flagpole is 288 feet high and made of steel which cost Rs70 million. This broke down into Rs40 million spent on the steel pipe and Rs28.6 million on the constructing the cement concrete foundation which had to be dug in at least 15 feet deep. The project had to pay Rs1.4 million in tax.
Mayor Barrister Arsalan Shaikh has simultaneously demolished all the monuments at roundabouts and put in plans to erect new ones, which one assumes will come at an additional cost. At the same time, trees have been chopped and the boundary wall razed to make way for a new one at the only recreational space in the heart of the city, Mohammad Bin Qasim Park. This too will ostensibly draw more money from the government kitty. In another development, the stairs leading to the Clock Tower from Masoom Shah Jo Minaro have been provided a sunshade.
While one does not question the mayor’s intent, it might be worth asking how public funds should best be put to use: is a 90-million-rupee flag really the need of a city which suffers from a lack of public works. Consider this:
Sukkur is located on the right bank of the Indus River but always faces water shortages, especially during canal closures in January. North Sindh Urban Services Corporation was set up at a cost of billions of rupees to provide the city drinking water and drainage. It started mega drainage and drinking water projects, but none of them were completed and the utility itself was scrapped on the orders of the Water Commission.
For what it is worth, last week, the mayor held a press conference to say that fixing the water supply and drainage system has been assigned to the Public Health Engineering Department in light of the Water Commission, headed by Justice (retired) Amir Hani Muslim. The drainage laid 40 years ago is damaged due which is why many areas remain have standing sewerage. He said that new drainage pipelines are being laid. Around 40 filter plants are being installed throughout the city.
The city has not been bereft of leadership and in fact there has been continuity in the lineage. Sukkur’s politics has been traditionally centred on two families: the Shaikhs and Shahs. Both families have belonged to the Pakistan Peoples Party, but have certain differences. Senator Islamuddin Shaikh’s son Nauman Islam Shaikh is an MNA, his younger son Barrister Arsalan Shaikh is the Mayor of Sukkur Municipal Corporation. Similarly, Syed Khursheed Ahmed Shah’s son and son-in-law both are MPAs in the Sindh Assembly. One assumes that given the collective experience of these families, they would not only know best what this city needs as a priority in terms of its civic infrastructure but also have a strategy to improve its condition by drawing on their political muscle.