Having a family somewhere in the outdated area of Karachi had to cry, seeing the Joint Investigation Report (JIT) of the factory town of Baldia inferno that killed their loved ones, tossed about for political judgment. Defeating that horrible incident must have been devastating. But that doesn’t bother our politicians. If they were concerned, the lives of 260 victims in Baldia City and the millions of people killed during the last three decades in Karachi would be saved. If they were worried, Karachi would not be divided into territories among militant organizations for commercial gain. If they were concerned, the people accused in JIT would be punished. Isn’t it now open and closed case?
JIT has identified the reason for the fire – ransom denial.
JIT has identified the hand that set the factory on fire – MQM which ruled Karachi for more than two decades without punishment.
JIT has identified the person who has ordered to close every door that leads out of the factory to ensure that no one can escape from the stove determined by the perpetrators to create a venue – the head of the Karachi MQM Tanzeemi Committee, Hammad Siddiqui.
JIT has identified police officers, MPs, businessmen, and factory administrators, who were involved in this bloody incident.
JIT has it all. But it is not enough for the court to act.
Over the years the judiciary in Pakistan has developed an endless desire for witnesses, pieces of evidence, and endless prosecution. Incurable bulimia has made justice a sad adventure. The result is that every high-level criminal process ends due to lack of evidence.
Every JIT and every criminal is an asset in the basket of opportunities to keep the country’s ships rowing in a direction that brings the proverbial 1% to their destination. Whether it is extracting the desired results in elections or obtaining short-term financial benefits from the artificial shortcomings on the supply side, crimes committed by elites are instruments of convenience, not to be wasted in punishment for what is called institutional reform.
Politics which should be a tool to take power in the name of the people for their benefit has become their worst enemy.
When Ali Zaidi, Murad Ali Shah, Saeed Ghani, and Murad Saeed were disparaging the crime of Baldia City by putting each other to sleep in a space of blame and accusation, Karachi sank into the dark because of K-Electric’s depleted resources. At the time when most large businesses were closed due to partial locking, K-Electric’s claim to run out of resources was a difficult proposition to accept. In Karachi, what appeared to be a battle for resources turned out to be a struggle for the region.
Political parties in Karachi have become so accustomed to protecting their territories that for them even a healthy intervention from the federation is a plan to pull the region from under their feet. The current crisis which is affecting Sindh versus Center is filled with two complexities: 18th Amendments and distribution of provincial finances in the award of the National Finance Commission (NFC).
When 18th Amendments were made, it set the dice rolling in the right direction. On rare occasions, political parties of each ideology lean on a common table to cancel the dictatorial footprint of the Constitution and make it a representative piece of law. In the next policy round, the mechanism for dividing the central financial pool was obtained from various indicators such as population size, poverty ratio, land area, etc. It’s no longer Punjab versus other provinces. That each province with its own luggage to carry. Each province is expected, as a joint unit, to make choices and decisions that will ultimately strengthen the Center’s overall vision for the country.
An unfortunate story of 18th The amendment is that it has been reduced to a mechanism for the distribution of central financial pies among the provinces. Whereas the spirit of the Amendment lies in the framework provided for administrative decentralization to hand over and transfer power to local governments. According to the World Bank’s definition, “In a devolved system, local governments have clear and legally recognized geographical boundaries where they exercise authority and where they carry out public functions.” For devolution to be effective, civil service reform must be carried out so that officers have the relevant skills to carry out government obligations efficiently, fairly and effectively. Nothing happens in the true spirit. It was not until the Supreme Court intervened that the governments in all the provinces drafted the local body’s law and voted. As for civil service reform, the jury is still out.
Fehmida Mirza, Inter Interim Coordination Minister, correctly said that the 18thth Amendments have not been implemented, not to mention a conspiracy to make it ineffective.
The Sindh government has misinterpreted 18th Amendments as a legal permit to run the province as a private domain. Punjab, because it has always been part of the party at the Center, is in a position to cover up this trend. But its failure to implement 18th Amendments through devolution of power are as clear as any other province.
If there is anything this government has to do with 18th Amendments are applied so as not to focus solely on redrawing NFC awards. The solution to the financial crisis lies in reforming the taxation system and punishing criminals who sit on unpaid wealth and money obtained from cartelization. To be with every businessman involved in the sugar, wheat and fuel crisis must be tried and punished. The success of a government lies in the application of obstacles determined by the Constitution for each power to keep it within limits.
The JIT regarding Uzair Baloch, the Baldia Factory fire, and Nisar Morai, the former chairman of the Fishermen Cooperative Society, were treated like pigs in the Aesopian fairy tale who, with a rope in the middle, “lifted screaming” into a ship, to obey whatever the “naked force” was in mind.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 16th, 2020.
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