NDMA and army fighting water, garbage woes A master stroke that could change entire landscape of Karachi, Sindh
KAPTAAN Imran Khan and his struggling team were desperately looking for a loose ball to handle Karachi and Sindh, as nothing was working despite a comfortable mandate given by Karachi to PTI.
Then God came down.
Everyone, and his aunt telltale, was shouting from the rooftop that Karachi, and Sindh, had been ignored and left to the stray dogs in the streets of the entire province,
biting and killing innocent people, while corrupt leaders were enjoying judicial, political and medical reliefs.
PM Khan was stuck between a rural PPP majority and a divided spectrum of other Sindhis who could not counter a Bhutto vote, no matter if it went to the advantage of an incorrigible Zardari clan.
So Khan had to go along with the antics and political gimmicks of the PPP, with Zardari sometimes coming out strongly against the army, in fits of rage, threatening to expose army generals and bringing down bricks over bricks or at other times hiding for weeks and months citing medical issues that almost invariably hit all men of his age and his habits.
Another big political game was to give time to the upcoming heir of the Bhutto legacy, Bilawal, the nick-named son of Zardari, to get training on the job, learning how to speak in Urdu, how to make jokes, how to understand political terms, how to attack the Establishment, how to behave like his slain mother in almost similar tones, as if that would get him the respect and get him votes.
When two years back Bilawal started to gain some confidence and his dad had not thrown in the towel yet, the young Zardari was cut down to his size as dad Zardari told a public meeting that he was still inexperienced and needed more training, meaning he should not yet be taken seriously.
Then things moved fast and Zardari decided it was time for him to hibernate and disappear and let young Bilawal take to the streets with uncles and aunts surrounding him to guide him through the political maze at every step.
Is it not an unfortunate and sorrowful comedy that elders and seniors like Ch. Aitzaz Ahsan, Farhatullah Babar, Sherry Rehman, Farooq Naik, Sardar Latif Khosa and their likes, bow their heads before a novice who is being tutored and trained by these very people to learn politics and try to pose as a leader. He is being treated as a student and the Dean of Professors, at the same time. But even Bilawal and his tutors have their limits.
While vultures were raiding Karachi and Sindh, unchallenged at least until the next round of political changes, Islamabad was getting the flak for doing nothing. PTI Governor flexed his muscles off and on but could hardly do anything. The Rangers were deployed and after so many years have almost lost their efficacy or the fear that such a force could create among criminals.
Then the skies came down crying. Karachiites took a heavy down pouring of disaster. Not just the narrow streets but also the main highways were flooded with just two to three inches of rain.
Water entered all bedrooms and sitting rooms, washing away whatever little the poor chaps owned.
The media did the rest and for several days the nation watched helplessly how Sindh government succumbed to the disaster that in any other country would have been a mild charge of severe weather.
Discussing the situation with all stakeholders and power centres, Prime Minister Imran Khan moved in and announced to send in the national disaster management team, which for all practical purposes is manned and handled by the army. He also formally invited the army to move in and do what is needed.
Apparently it was just a reaction to the rain disaster and the clogged and choked state of Karachi, but in political terms it had a much wider scope and a move with far-reaching consequences.
Karachi has been left to the devils for too long and everything is in a broken shape: the residents litter heaps of garbage every day to add to their suicidal miseries but there is no leadership at any level to educate the people on this self-destructive measure; millions of plastic bags clog every water and sewerage drain; whatever little that seeps out goes into the sea that creates further environmental and sea life issues; there is no plan or no authority that can think of tackling this massive menace.
So now when the NDMA and the army marches in, what are they supposed to do and what effect can this move have?
The first natural step would be for the troops that are stationed in cantonments around Karachi to move on to the streets and let the city planners, water/sewage experts, wherever they may come from, to assess what is needed and how to go about the huge task.
Army troops on Karachi streets will have an immediate sobering impact on many other evils that were playing havoc, unchecked. The target killers, the motorcycle bandits, bank and ATM robbers, political, religious or social protestors, carrying hidden or even open arms, will think twice whether to take the law into their hands.
For everyone’s great relief the tyranny of the uniformed, politicized and unrepentant Sindh Police will automatically be cut to size, although the army will technically be there only for disaster relief. Yet the mere presence of troops will have a tremendous restraining effect.
The task of the army will not be a short-lived affair.
It will take weeks and months of preparing a Master Plan to begin the work on the streets and many more weeks and months for the machines, cranes, trucks and containers to start moving mountains of garbage. It will have to be decided where these mountains will be dumped and how and at what cost this environmental hazard be disposed of.
The previous plans and projects to turn this waste into energy will have to be revisited and revived if needed. More than the physical garbage removal and cleanup, a very determined and powerful media and information campaign will have to be launched with millions in budgets to educate the people not to create further problems. Social responsibility will have to be induced, forcibly if needed. A very strict ban on use of plastic bags will have to be enforced with a properly thought out strategy to replace the plastic with biodegradable material. Many countries in the world have achieved these environmental targets and their expertise and experience will have to be utilized.
Many more aspects of this huge task will be discussed and pointed out by experts but once the big plan takes shape and things start moving on the streets of Karachi, it will be the beginning of a long and never ending embarrassment for the Sindh PPP Government. For almost three decades PPP has been in power in the province and not once have they tried to address this issue. Yet if the NDMA and the army produce results, and quick ones, people all over the country will have to believe this was a deliberate sin, a punishable act of commission. There will be a political price.
On another level, this one single act will give Imran Khan and the federal government a strong foothold in Karachi and Sindh.
By one stroke of pen, all the legal and constitutional complications of imposing Governor’s Rule or taking direct measures by the federal government have been bypassed.
The PPP and the Sindh Government cannot raise any objection as Karachi is facing a major disaster, which the local and provincial authorities have failed to handle.
With the induction of the army, if there was any room for political chest beating by the Sindh Government, it has been taken care of. Mr Asif Zardari or Bilawal or Chief Minister Shah does not have the guts to come out and attack the army. They have millions of other issues to worry about.
So in the coming weeks when law and order improves on Karachi streets, crime goes down, the presence of troops gives confidence to businesses to step up, streets start to get better and people are told and forced to behave, the entire scenario will change.
PPP and Sindh Government will remain bystanders and will have to watch the show from sidelines. No political move, fresh polls or a parliamentary shake-up will have produced these results. Mr Imran Khan should thank God and his advisers for creating this opening.