Karachi’s contribution to national kitty is indeed never less than twice of what is made by rest of the country. But where it also excels is its contribution to the ‘jugga tax’ it regularly pays to underworld syndicates and to their surface-world dons. According to an estimate presented to the Sindh Apex Committee on June 4 by DG Rangers Major-General Bilal Akbar, more than Rs 230 billion is being generated annually through illegal means that is “not only a source of loss to the exchequer but it also agonized the citizens”.
And, he said he finds hard to bring the ongoing anti-terrorism targeted operation to its logical end unless plug is pulled on this terror-financing. As to what these sources of black money are and who keeps these supply lines function he didn’t name the names. Yet he did drop broad enough hints that would help anyone in Karachi as to who are the beneficiaries and the benefactors of this parallel economy.
Did he also give a list of around two dozen politicians, members of the bureaucracy, police officers and others as reported in a section of press, for further action to Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah? We have no idea. But one is definitely intrigued why the contents of the DG Rangers’ statement at the Apex Committee meeting have been made public now, while not a whisper about that statement and the list has been heard from the CM House. Is it then the case that the provincial government has in its fold those very wrongdoers identified by the Rangers’ chief.
And, for how long the provincial administration can afford to sleep over these disclosures and assertions, and act nonchalant about something which forms the core of its obligations? As what is the alternative to this nonchalance? Article 234 of the Constitution shines the light on a possible next step. It says: “If the President, on receipt of a report from the Governor of a province is satisfied that a situation has arisen in which the government of the province cannot be carried on in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution, the President may … direct the Governor of the province to assume … all or any functions of the government of the province”.
If the ground for Governor’s rule in Sindh is being prepared, it would be hazardous to make predictions. Even so, the criticality of the obtaining law and order situation in Karachi, that is so much symptomatic of across the board failure of political leadership and civilian administrative setup, warrants a deeper look into the DG Rangers’ take on the deep morass the 20-millon city of Karachi is gradually descending.
Why the gang war in Lyari refuses to die down – because the amount generated at the fish harbour through illegal means is “distributed among the different groups of Lyari gang war and some influential personalities of Sindh”. Why millions are collected in the name of Zakat, Fitra and “forcible” collection of hides of sacrificial animals by different political and religious parties – because it is “used to operate their militant wings”.
Who is behind land-grabbing and ‘China-cutting’ in Karachi – it is a “huge crime racket” jointly operated by political parties, city government, construction companies and estate agents “patronized by a major political party of Karachi”. Why all those smuggling diesel from Iran are not spotted and checked – because the money so generated is “a key source of crime and terrorism funding” and is also used to feed private armies of “political groups and feudals of Sindh”. Why there is such a hue and cry over water famine in Karachi – because supplies by illegal means generate “millions of rupees every year”. And as for the appointments of ghost employees, the system helps generate millions of rupees on a “permanent basis”. Additionally, other means of amassing illegal wealth are “illegal marriage halls, illegal parking, drug business under political patronage”, match-fixing, money laundering, beggars mafia, cyber crime, foreign funding of seminars which play a “key role in crime funding and promotion of terrorism structure”.
That these facts and figures are conjectural and were presented to the Apex Committee to drive home a particular message, one would not buy this argument, because it is not very different from what we all know, on basis of personal experience or courtesy the authentic sources. The question now is: What to do and how to go about it? The ball is in the federal government’s court. The situation underscores the need for a revisit of proverbial Nawaz-Zardari deal.
The prime minister is, therefore, required to make it clear to the Sindh government that Sindh DG Rangers’ report is the expression of formal disapproval of the way the province is being run and a lack of inaction has only brightened the prospects of imposition of Governor’s rule on a province which remains deeply mired in woefully bad governance many years after the removal of General Pervez Musharraf from power.
Any voice for building up institutional structures for effective local governance is no longer audible because political expediencies have eroded or significantly diminished strident calls for local empowerment. Karachiites and Karachiites alone must empower themselves to arrest the slide and demand much of those in authority who are elected to serve them.
The text appeared in the Editorial of Business Recorder today.