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Save Sindh!

Sindh’s problems can only be resolved by carrying out deep rooted reforms which must include the accountability of those at the helm of affairs. Adhoc measures such as the announcement of relief packages cannot address Sindh’s issues on a long term basis in fact they can further aggravate the existing issues and not just that but the country’s fiscal problems can worsen.
13 Sep 2020

“One of the biggest curses from which India is suffering — I do not say that other countries are free from it, but, I think, our condition is much worse — is bribery and corruption. That really is a poison,” Quaid e Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah said this while delivering his historical speech on 11th August ‘1947.

The Quaid could have been taking about Sindh today and be perfectly on point. Karachi was once more devastated by the rains and since then there have been many claims of fixing the city’s issues. While it may be reassuring to see the city is finally getting some attention and a motley mix are claiming to take ownership of the city with promises to fix the city’s issues, there is the sinking feeling that Karachi’s issues are not just limited to the heaven’s crying in despair, and the magnitude of the issues that the package will be no more than a short-term palliative.

At the heart of the darkness is that of years of malign incompetence by the administration. Not just Karachi but the whole of Sindh is caught in the vicelike grip of kleptocracy and ineptitude. While the focus may fall on Karachi give the city’s importance as the economic hub of the country, the plight of the people of the many more suffering in interior Sindh is not any less, if not more than those in Karachi. Any efforts of resolving the issues must not be limited to Karachi but must look to address the rest of Sindh as equal stakeholders if there is any hope of renewal to be had.

It will take cold heart not to be moved by the sight much of Sindh especially and its capital Karachi drowned by the deluge, but even more disturbing is continuing incompetence and rampant corruption of the rulers of this blighted province. Be it the education system, the health system or the administration as a whole; nothing seems to be working properly in the entire province.

Take away the rains and the lives of citizens living in the city are no less than an ordeal. Lack of clean water allows parasitical bowser operators to price gouge helpless citizens for the basic necessity of water. There’s no mechanism for picking up 20,000 tons of waste daily, just as there’s none for cleaning the drains, or fixing crater ridden the road infrastructure. Despite repeated promises by various political parties there’s still no start in delivering public transport for the citizens due to which they’re forced to travel on old busses which are on the verge of collapsing. The public education system is dysfunctional and same is the case with the healthcare system. The entire city is full of illegal encroachments which were made at the behest of the relevant powers.

One other major issue is that the local governments are powerless. When the 18th Amendment was being put forward, one of the biggest debates in favour of it were that the administrative affairs will be decentralised and the provinces will get more autonomy so that they’re able to function efficiently. Unfortunately going completely against to their promise, the Pakistan People’s Party(PPP) who has been in power for the last 13 years in Sindh has completely disbanded the entire local government system.

One of the examples of the disbandment of the local government system is the lack of seriousness shown by the provincial government in issuing the Provincial Finance Commission(PFC) Award. The distribution of the PFC Award is a legal requirement, according to the Sindh Local Government Act. However, Sindh's municipal councils have not received the award for the past 13 years as the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP)-led provincial government has failed to distribute resources among the districts. Rural and urban areas in the province have been facing a myriad of problems in the absence of the new award.

Clause 112 of the Sindh Local Government Act states that it is compulsory for the provincial government to issue the PFC award every four years and distribute financial share to all districts and local government agencies from provincial revenue as per the formula. However, the provincial government has failed to finalise the procedure for distribution of provincial revenue in the past 12 years.

The new award has not been issued to the metropolitan corporation, district councils, district municipal corporations, municipal committees and town committees in the past 13 years. There are around 1,500 union councils and union committees in Sindh's rural and urban areas and they too have not been issued the award. Perhaps this explains the reason behind Sindh’s crumbling infrastructure in the past decade.

The PFC award was last issued in 2007. The procedure for the distribution of the Sindh government's financial resources was decided but even in its ongoing third term, the provincial government did not issue the award during any fiscal year. Around 55 per cent of the province's revenue was supposed to be distributed under the last PFC while the remaining 45 per cent was to be kept by the Sindh government.

Other than the disbandment of local governments, the provincial government has been unable to provide the basic necessities to the people of Sindh. The entire province is stuck in issues such as the malnutrition in Thar, the outbreak of HIV in Larkana, ghost schools, rising poverty, rampant corruption, nepotism and almost every other problem a person can think of exists in Sindh.

The Federal government has announced a transformation package for Karachi. However they must not forget the plight of the people of Sindh who are in an even worse condition than those living in Karachi. Having said that, adhoc measures such as the recent packages aren’t part of the solution but in fact they end up becoming the part of the problem because they might further pushback the deep rooted reforms Sindh and its capital, Karachi needs in order to function effectively.

Any form of deep rooted reforms in Sindh must include the accountability of the political forces who have been governing the province. The major political force in Sindh has been the PPP who have been in power for more than quarter of a century which includes an ongoing 13 year consecutive rule in Sindh. During this time, all that has happened is that the province has been in a constant nosedive. This clearly signifies that there is something wrong with the way it has been governed. In order to save the province, all those involved in Sindh’s nosedive must be held accountable before handing resources to the same political forces. Sindh’s and Karachi’s saviour can only take place if the flaws in the current system are rectified or else the people of this province will continue to suffer.

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Moiz Ur Rehman

The author is a student of law who is currently doing his LLB(Hons) from the University of London.The views expressed are his own and do not represent that of his institute. He tweets @MoizUrRehman_