A senior director of Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) was transferred from his post for allegedly launching a crackdown on the use of plastic bags while some of the sources claimed that he had been taking ‘selective’ action against business establishments that allegedly failed to comply with the laws on the use of plastic bags.
A notification issued by Sindh Chief Secretary Dr Muhammad Sohail Rajput on August 3 stated that Senior Director Anti-Encroachment Bashir Ahmed Siddiqui was transferred to the Local Government & Housing Town Planning Department.
The sudden transfer came as the official had launched a massive crackdown on plastic bags. However, sources say that the action was ‘selective’ and the official was using it to blackmail traders for kickbacks.
Who is Bashir Siddiqui?
Bashir Siddiqui was appointed senior director anti-encroachment department in 2018 during the tenure of former Karachi mayor Wasim Akhtar.
He initially served as a director in the department for six months before his elevation and served as a senior director between 2018 and 2022.
He served in the position the longest - four years - followed by Mazhar Khan, Nazeer Lakhani, and Bilal Manzar. These officers had served as the senior director for a maximum of two years.
It was during his tenure that the Supreme Court of Pakistan in 2018 ordered the KMC to retrieve and restore the original status of the corporation’s owned lands in Karachi.
In light of the top court’s order, the KMC anti-encroachment department under him demolished illegal markets established around Empress Market, Ghori Garden, Arambagh, and Aladin Park.
Then in January 2021, KMC started removing encroachments on Manzoor Colony Nullah, Gujjar Nullah, and Orangi Nullah.
More than 3,000 illegal houses built over nullahs were razed down during the anti-encroachment drive which lasted 10 months.
Besides these major operations, KMC also removed encroachments set up on roadsides and footpaths across all districts of the megacity at regular intervals.
Why was he transferred?
Well-placed sources in KMC told this correspondent – requesting anonymity – that ‘selective’ crackdown on plastic bags was the cause of Bashir’s transfer.
They said that the KMC high officials received complaints against the former senior director that the crackdown was discriminating as Bashir facilitated some plastic bag traders and did not take action against them.
They said the matter came under discussion during a high-level meeting chaired by Sindh CM and attended by the chief secretary and other officials.
The high-ups decided to transfer Bashir Siddiqui over the complaints of traders, who claimed that they were the victims of selective action after their consignments of plastic bags had been confiscated by the KMC.
“The plastic bags traders were of the view that the KMC was taking action on selective basis.” sources said adding that the department spared some against kickbacks.
Sources said that the action was being used as a pressure tactic by the ex-director.
Bashir says ‘mafia’ behind the move
The former KMC senior director Bashir Siddiqui however rejected allegations of a selective crackdown on plastic bags.
Siddiqui said a powerful plastic bag mafia turned against him as soon as he started action on the directives of Karachi Administrator Murtaza Wahab.
“They (the mafia) are behind my transfer from the post,” he claimed.
Siddiqui said, “I was the only one who initiated action against the plastic bags even before district administration including deputy commissioners and assistant commissioners.”
Further, KMC Metropolitan Commissioner Syed Afzal Zaidi says that a new senior director of grade-19 would take charge of the anti-encroachment department in a couple of days.
He said, “The new official will be from KMC, not the Sindh government.”