KARACHI - The Centre “may impose Article 149” in Karachi, Governor Sindh Imran Ismail said on Wednesday after the federal and provincial governments came under criticism for not resolving the metropolis dismal civic issues. Article 149 states that the federal government, in order to exercise its own executive authority in the provinces, can give directions in certain cases to the provinces.

“149(1): Executive authority of every province shall be so exercised so as not to prejudice or impede the executive authority of the federation, and the executive authority of the federation shall extend to giving of directions to a province as may appear to the federal government to be necessary for the purpose,” reads the first clause of the Article.

Under Article 149(3) and Article 149(4) federal executive authority extends to giving directions to the provinces with regard to construction of means of communication and their maintenance as well as to directions with regard to peace, tranquility and economic life of Pakistan if as a result of any act, the executive authority of the federation is affected in this regard. The governor said that Karachi used to be one of the best cities of the country and that the Centre will not abandon Karachi. “A solid framework is being worked on for Karachi. The Centre, Sindh government, and the stakeholders of the city will be taken on board to resolve the issues,” he said.

“If the framework is not agreed upon, then Article 149 may be imposed,” Ismail said, however adding: “No such action is currently being considered which will cause chaos in the city.” “The Supreme Court may also take action to resolve Karachi’s issues,” he said further.

The Governor said that instead of the Centre imposing Article 149 in Karachi, all the stakeholders should join hands to resolve the port city’s issues. Meanwhile, in the same programme, spokesperson for the Sindh government Murtaza Wahab said that the provincial leadership was ready to hold talks with the Centre. “It is our priority to resolve Karachi’s issues,” he said, adding that they were ready to work with the federal government if it provides them with funds. “Roads of the city’s coastal and industrial areas need to be made better,” Wahab added.

KMC continues to remove billboards from private properties

The Karachi Metropolitan Corporation’s anti-encroachment officers have started pulling down billboards, hoardings, banners and streamers from private properties on Supreme Court orders, after two people were injured when it fell during the rainstorm last week. KMC Director Minhaj-ul-Haq was leading the operation that started on August 10.

“The advertisements include 200-feet wide and 150-feet high ones which fall in the category of dangerous advertisements,” Haq said. “We have removed them from private sites on MA Jinnah Road, Teen Talwar, Metropole, Regal Chowk, Abdullah Haroon Road, Tariq Road and Bahadurabad.” Private sites, such as apartment blocks, often rent out their wall space to big advertisers for hefty sums. The only problem was that sometimes the billboard covered windows and blocks ventilation for the building’s residents. The advertiser got each apartment to quietly sign a waiver. In 2014, there were over 3,000 billboards in Karachi with 140 on the strip from Hotel Metropole to Gora Qabristan on Shahrah-e-Faisal that earned the cantonment at least 250 million rupees a year. It was a lucrative business.

But ever since the Supreme Court’s crackdown in 2015, advertisers got creative and started using walls. Billboard sites are auctioned by KMC and cantonments for yearly contracts. Advertisers erect billboards and then marketing companies rent them.

The current operation was targeting advertising that broke the bylaws. The standard sizes were: 10x20ft, 15x45ft, 60x20ft. But advertisers, the cantonments and city government had been creative by clubbing together two billboards to invent the massive 125x40ft one or the billboard wall. On the third day of the sweep, an advertisement wall near Hyperstar in Clifton falling in the jurisdiction of South DMC was torn down. Two others were taken down earlier.

There were still four dangerous giant billboards, two at Abdullah Haroon Road, one near National Stadium at Shazz Super Market and one at Mashrique Shopping Center, that needed to be tackled. “Except shop boards, we are going to remove every single advertisement from private property,” Haq added. 

“We have removed around 300 advertisements from private sites during three days.”

DMC South officer gets bail

Two officers of DMC South (Advertisement department) Wazir Ali and Siddique Swati suspended after a billboard near Metropole Hotel fell on August 6 and injured two people. They got bail from a South District & Sessions judge.

Wazir Ali, Director South DMC Advertisement, confirmed that he was on bail and in Khairpur. According to him, the DMC South Advertisement Department had given permission for the wall pasting to a real estate agent called Ashraf Motiwalla on a private site located at Metropole.

“The wall pasting permission of 30×40 feet was given to Ashraf Motiwalla for 2018-19 against a government challan of Rs750,000,” he said. The permission ended by 2019 and his hoardings were laid on the roof of the building and it was these sheets which fell on the road from the wind that day.