Ask not what your UC chairman can do for you…

Turns out, not much

You will be voting on August 28, hopefully, for your local government in Karachi. Is there any point, you ask. Fair enough. Who has the time to understand the complicated local government system with its municipalities, committees and corporations? Wasn’t this all a bad dream Musharraf had that became a nightmare for Karachi for twenty years? What’s a yoo-see anyway?

This great city of ours, Karachi, is a land divided into pieces and the tiniest piece is a union committee. You’ll be asked to pick a chairman, vice chairman and four ward councilors. The candidates will be from all of Karachi’s political parties (including the Tehreek Labbaik Pakistan, so if the die is cast, we could be even looking at a TLP mayor some day). There are 246 UCs where you will be voting. These chairmen will go to the City Council and then vote for a mayor.

The PPP, MQM (and all its children), PTI and Jamaat-e-Islami are the major parties putting up candidates. So, just the Sindh Assembly, the City Council will have members of these parties. The party that gets the most city council chairmen will most likely make the mayor.

Karachi’s mayor, just in case you were wondering, is someone we will choose democratically. Right now we have an Administrator with a crazy Twitter handle: Murtaza Wahab. He was not elected because right now we don’t have an elected local government. We have the commissioner nizam (a British hangover of sorts).

But you should be more concerned with your UC and who its chairman will be. (Chairwomen or chairpersons will be rare as not many women are standing in this election.)

This entire system will be legally run under rules set in a law from 2021. It is called the Sindh Local Government Amended Bill, 2021, and it is a spin-off from SLGA, 2013.

You’ll have to go to the UC chairman if you have had a baby, someone has died, you fell in love and got married, or you fell out of love and got unmarried (divorced). A union committee secretary will have to sign these certificates along with the UC chairman.

How much money are we talking about?

A union committee chairman will get a UC fund of Rs500,000 every month directly from the Sindh government. This money will be used to pay salaries of the union committee staff.

Take the example of Ahtaram-ul-Haq UC 27 and Abdul Salam of UC 22, both who were elected chairmen. They were Rs500,000 but said a major chunk of Rs350,000 was spent on salaries. About Rs50,000 went to other expenses. They saved Rs100,000 a month. The monthly saving is useless, as we could not do any relief or development work for the residents, they said.

A UC chairman is paid a stipend of Rs10,000 and a vice chairman get Rs8,000 monthly.

What can a chairman do?

  • You can ask your UC chairman to do this for you:
  • Hold a fumigation drive
  • Put a ring slab (or manhole cover) on a gutter
  • Repair and maintain street lights
  • Keep the UC park clean
  • Fix water and sewage lines.

But if it rains, don’t expect them to do any public relief work. The former UC chairmen said that the list above is in their direct control, but the laws of 2013 and 2021 don’t allow them to do relief work. They pointed out that the 2001 (Musharraf) law gave them more liberty to provide relief to the people.

They managed from 2016 to 202 by sending the residents’ complaints to the Sindh government department. The Sindh government controlled all the major utility departments.

“The current local government Act just allows a UC chairman to cover street lights,” said former UC chairman Abdul Salam.

Well, hey, at this point we’ll take street lights. Something is better than nothing.

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