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The Express Tribune Editorial 23 January 2020

Dangerous buildings


The Karachi city administration has asked the Sindh Building Control Authority (SBCA) to get 382 residential buildings in the city declared dangerous vacated, though no time frame has been given in this regard. The SBCA officials have only been warned that they will be held responsible if any untoward incidents happen. At a recent meeting chaired by Karachi Commissioner Iftikhar Shallwani, a SBCA official said most of the dangerous buildings are in district South. There are 44 such buildings in Lyari. The official said that owners of dangerous buildings had been served with notices to get their buildings vacated, but they had yet to act on the notices. The meeting discussed the idea of disconnecting their utilities to get these buildings vacated. The issue of marriage halls built on residential and amenity plots also came up for discussion at the meeting. It was decided that district administrations and the SBCA would jointly take action to remove illegally-built wedding halls. Korangi’s additional deputy commissioner disclosed that 45 marriage halls had been illegally constructed on residential plots in Korangi.
Since old and dangerous buildings mostly collapse during the rainy season, it becomes imperative to get dangerous buildings vacated before the start of the next rainy season. When it comes to saving human life complacency or dilly-dallying becomes unpardonable. In December last year, a six-storey residential building in Soomra Gali, Ranchhore Line, collapsed. Fortunately, residents had evacuated the building just hours before it caved in after they saw cracks in walls. A detailed report of the losses has been provided to the commissioner’s office. Press reports say residents of the building are still waiting for the government’s response, and those rendered homeless are still staying with their relatives. Those to be evacuated from dangerous buildings should not be left to fend for themselves.


Party men too


Still struggling to win back the disgruntled allies at the Centre, the PTI is now faced with disgruntled party men too, in Punjab. A group of 20 MPAs, led by Sardar Shahabuddin, has added to the ruling party’s headache of keeping the coalition intact — both at the Centre and in Punjab. The estranged legislators — half of whom belong to South Punjab — are openly expressing their resentment on “being overlooked in the distribution of funds for public welfare” and calling for the “ignored” districts of DG Khan, Bhakkar, Layyah, Vehari, Hafizabad, Chiniot, Sargodha and Rawalpindi to be developed like Lahore and Faisalabad.
The group of 20 has gathered under the banner of ‘Supremacy of Parliament’ in a clear expression of their disapproval of the Centre’s hold on the affairs of the country’s biggest province. This gives credence to the claims being made in the media that people’s representatives, in general, are unhappy with Punjab being run by the federal government through the chief secretary and the inspector general of police, and consider Punjab CM Usman Buzdar as a mere figurehead with no say in the affairs that matter.
This rebellion may well be an indication of the changing political times. It may well be a fake expression of displeasure, actually meant to pave the way for a change in the government set-up. It reminds one of a similar rising by a group of eight MNAs and MPs from South Punjab barely two months before the last general election held on July 25, 2018. The group — in the name of the rights of the deprived people of South Punjab — defected from the PML-N, then ruling both the Centre and Punjab, to join the PTI, sensing the change in the wind direction. But on joining the PTI and later becoming a part of the ruling coalition, the group named ‘Junoobi Punjab Sooba Mahaz’ hardly did anything towards carving out a separate province for the people of southern Punjab. The politics of vested interest. Isn’t it?


A CEC finally


The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) might finally have a new boss. Several months of negotiations between the ruling PTI and major opposition parties led to the nomination of Sikandar Sultan Raja as chief election commissioner, according to Federal Minister for Human Rights Shireen Mazari. It took over a dozen meetings for a parliamentary committee to evolve a consensus on the name. The minister says that the parliamentary panel has also agreed on appointments for two vacant seats of ECP members. Nisar Durrani and Shah Mohammad Jatoi will be the members from Sindh and Balochistan, respectively. After approval from Prime Minister Imran Khan, the appointments will formally be notified.
On an unrelated but heartening note, Mazari took some time to praise opposition parties for working with the government to ensure there was consensus on all the names. “Parliamentary matters should be decided by parliament,” she said, adding, “We should aim to work in this manner in the future.” Opposition leaders, including Rana Sanaullah of the PML-N and former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf of the PPP, espoused confidence in the honesty and competence of the nominated ECP chief, although Sanaullah did take a thinly-veiled jab at the ruling party by expressing hope that the next elections are free and fair.
The long-delayed process came because of a rule change under the 18th Amendment. According to the amendment, the prime minister and the opposition leader must unanimously name a chief election commissioner. In case of disagreement, the matter goes to a parliamentary committee with equal representation from the ruling party and the opposition, which must come up with three names each and then decide on one. The agreement was also a bit surprising as it came just a day after Leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Shehbaz Sharif sent an amended list of opposition nominees to the government. Also notable is the fact that for the first time in a while, retired judges did not get the top job, or even dominate the lists of nominees. All three of the PTI’s nominees were former bureaucrats, including Raja, who retired as Railways secretary last year.
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