When Mohammad Rashid voted in the local government elections in 2015, he had high hopes.
“The local government elections are grassroots democracy. I was excited to vote for my panel, in the hope that our issues would be resolved after the local government elections through the local representatives,” he told Dawn.
“But nothing happened.”
Two years later, the G-7 resident called the Metropolitan Corporation Islamabad (MCI) a failure that has nothing to offer the city’s two million residents.
Since it was formed, the corporation has had no funding or power to resolve issues facing its constituents. It did not receive funding from the PML-N government to carry out development projects and continues to face issues of manpower, as employees of devolved Capital Development Authority (CDA) directorates refuse to join the MCI while working there on a temporary basis.
Chief Metropolitan Officer (CMO) Syed Najaf Iqbal admitted that the MCI has faced a number of challenges, but said he was “hopeful” that the upcoming financial year would bring change. For the first time, he said, the government has earmarked over Rs3 billion in the 2018-19 budget for development projects in Islamabad’s union councils.
Mr Iqbal said that rules of establishment and business for the MCI have been drafted and forwarded to the Ministry of Interior to be notified.
“Once these rules are notified, we will have a guideline to move forward.
There have not been any development projects in the capital’s 18 urban and 32 rural union councils since the MCI was formed. In the past, the Islamabad Capital Territory administration was responsible for development work in the rural areas, while the CDA carried out projects in the urban and sectoral areas.
In the meantime, the capital’s residents continue to face water shortage, the lack of a permanent landfill site and garbage collection system or pavements and streets in the rural areas, faulty streetlights and encroachment issues, all issues that are to be resolved by the MCI. The major and burning issue, the MCI has been facing is insufficient supply of water for residents.
The capital city is badly hit by water scarcity because of decrease of water level in Khanpur and Simly dams and because of leakage of water, as around 30 percent water from Simly Dam, before reaching to reservoir in urban area, had gone into wastage.
But, the budget-less MCI is helpless to fix the leaked pipelines. Whereas, the water is also being stolen from main supply lines, as there are hundreds of illegal connections, in UCs Pind Bagwal, Bhara Kahu, Kot Hatyal and in Bari Iman area. However, the CMO said that recently, MCI moved a summary to seek Rs1.6 billion as special grant from the prime minster to handle the water crisis in the federal capital.
Deputy Mayor Syed Zeeshan Naqvi said the lack of funding and power had started resentment among local government representatives and constituents, but added that the MCI would take off properly in the coming months, when funding is released.
MCI opposition leader Ali Awan from the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf, however, alleged that the PML-N government had made the MCI a story of failure. He claimed the federal government had been reluctant to hold the local government elections, but was directed to do so by the Supreme Court.
The PML-N government conducted the elections on orders from the SC, but then left the system to die a slow death, he said. “When you will not provide a single penny for development projects, how could the MCI survive,” he asked.
He added that local government representatives were avoiding facing their voters because they had nothing to offer. He said that the PML-N leadership would have to face the people of Islamabad over the failed MCI system in the upcoming elections.
So far, the corporation does not have funds and most importantly its own staff, as currently, the CDA staff has been working in those departments, which were devolved to MCI on temporary basis. And CDA, on loan basis, has been bearing non-development expenditure of MCI such as salaries of employees.
Sources said that for the first two years, after issuance of notification of MCI, the CDA was supposed to give loan and salaries of MCI employees, for two years and in July, this transition period is going to end.
“There could be an issue, when in July the transition period of two years will be ended in July. The government should have allocated non-development funds in budget for financial year 2018-19 for paying salaries of MCI employees,” said CDA’s member planning Asad Mehboob Kayani.
Senator Dr. Ashok Kumar, while chairing a standing committee meeting on Capital Administration and Development Division (CADD) on Friday, also raised his concerns as why federal government did not allocate funding for paying salaries of MCI employees.
He said that MCI is responsible to perform many important functions such as ensuring provision of water for Islamabad’s residence and sanitation services, but the government did not allocate budget for it.
The other committee members also showed their concerns over non-funding for MCI. CDA’s member finance Dr. Fahad Aziz said that if MCI is given funding by federal government, then CDA could utilize the amount, which it has been paying against salaries of MCI employees, for development projects. It is relevant to note here, so far, the CDA had paid around four billion to MCI as loan.
Courtesy: Dawn News