"I'M an ordinary person, with no hang-ups, yet I believe in spending life in an orderly manner; I strive to put things in order, to what extent I succeed, I can’t comment,” the plain-spoken Commissioner of Karachi Mr. Ejaz Ahmed Khan sheds light on himself.

“My first effort is to improve service delivery and ensure that people get a better Karachi,” he puts through in black and white.

His city of birth, Karachi, was in an “excellent” state when he was growing up. “The word excellent will fall short in degree for Karachi was neat and clean, posh and environmentally strong. It used to exhibit a decent lot of people,” Khan talks about the “cultured lot of denizens” Karachi had in the days.

In his school days, Khan was “less of a student and more of a sportsman”.

“I used to go to Bakhtiari Youth Centre located in North Nazimabad and we played cricket matches on the weekends,” Khan brings to mind a time when Rs. 1 would be enough for him to commute from PECHS Block 6. “I used to get a 25 paisa ticket for the bus and with the rest I would treat myself to a bunkabab,” he shares beamingly. “We used to drink tap water with no worries of catching any kind of water-borne disease, as for the public transport system, it wasn’t efficient or glittering, but it sure was decent.”

A graduate of NED University of Engineering and Technology, Khan is a Mechanical Engineer by education. “I got my degree in mechanical engineering but at the same time I had my classes at Pakistan Navy Engineering College,” shares the retired naval officer who initially served as a lieutenant. It was around that time when Khan decided to join the civil service. “It was in 1988 that I was selected in the Pakistan Administrative Service on the armed service quota.”

Having experienced field work in Punjab, KP and in the federal government, Khan has “served very less time in Karachi”.

“For the last six years I am in Sindh. I have headed the Thar Coal & Energy Board, was Secretary of Coal & Energy Department, I was also Secretary Special Initiative Department, prior to that I was Special Finance Secretary for two years,” Khan lists up the various positions he has served, and according to him “the diverse kind of exposure has helped in discharging duties as Commissioner of this city.”

To lay it out in the open, Khan points out the role of a commissioner.” As far as the rules of the government are concerned, he’s the executive head of any revenue division. A few decades back, the office of the commissioner was pretty much different,” Khan reveals.

“He used to wield a lot of administrative powers as well, but with the passage of time, especially once this devolution came and the office of the commissioner was abolished, it remained missing for almost eight to 10 years. However, the political wisdom thought it appropriate that it has to be brought to life again for things were not working the way they should have been,” and once again this very office was revived, but with modifications.

“Now the district officers who are branded as deputy commissioners aren’t equipped with administrative and legal powers which the old system was bestowing upon them,” Khan asserts, pointing at the missing strength and efficacy which the office was enjoying two decades back. “Now it’s more in a facilitating, coordinating mode; a mode in which ordinarily you can’t go beyond a certain limit; your word at best is taken as a recommendation,” he says. So who gets to have the final say? “Nobody. That is the dilemma at the moment. If you have to find some scapegoat then very conveniently you can pick up any officer, but at the same time there are no formally defined roles as it was in the previous set up, where the deputy commissioners were the commissioner’s representatives and they were administratively empowered. But as of now, they have a very insignificant role.”

For Khan, a megalopolis like Karachi which “has a population of informally 20 or maybe 23 million people” there need to be certain prerequisites to make this big a sum to live in an orderly manner, “which includes access to clean drinking water, good sanitation, health facilities and quality education,” shares Khan who highlights his responsibility which is “not a policy role but at the most to coordinate things”.

With competence and skill running hand in hand, Khan believes “having skill alone and not caring for the people, one can’t function in silos.”

One issue which he would love to address is that of traffic. “Allow me to say, if we start behaving individually and collectively as law-abiding citizens, half of the issue itself will get resolved; the rest is implementation,” where again when it comes to implementation the administration has been rendered toothless. “Previously the magistrate used to have extensive, exhaustive legal powers to impose and enforce law, now these powers are clipped and resultantly you see if someone is violating the law, the traffic police can hardly maintain that kind of writ unless they are bestowed with magisterial powers in which they can send delinquent individuals to jail or impose a heavy fine on the spot,” he imparts, adding “I have already forwarded a case to the home department that unless my officers are not equipped legally, enforcement would be difficult.”

Setting things in order is surely on Khan’s list. If things go as he plans, “I can assure in the coming six months to a year I will try my level best to bring this traffic mess into some kind of order.”

With a major section of the metropolitan facing extreme road blocks due to road constructions, Khan states “It is a part of the development process and in this respect extreme credit goes to the honourable Chief Minister who has taken this initiative and has allocated almost Rs.10 billion for the Karachi development package in which you can see for the time being there’s a lot of discomfort and disturbance for the people but post June you’ll see a quantum change in the outlook of the city as far as roads are concerned.”

Working on Saturday’s and Sunday’s too, Khan rarely gets time for himself. “At times, when I do get respite, I spend time with family. I also go play golf and at times play tennis and cricket. A few weeks back I played a match against the Canadian team where I fetched two wickets and made some useful runs,” he shares and as he does, the secondary school version of him twinkles in his eyes.

Hailing immense inspiration from his father, Khan would return home to be questioned on a daily basis. “He would ask me everyday what good I have done for the people around me,” Khan brings to mind the advices his late father shared which keep ringing in his mind all the time.

An avid reader who is fond of reading autobiographies, is going to pen sometime in the future. “In the near future im going to write two books. The title of the first one will be Rehbar se Walton and the second will be of my active service which I have been doing for the past 26 years which will be a light read, a very candid submission of all things good and bad,” reveals the soon-to-be pensmith who will resort to writing once he retires. “God willing if I live up to 60 years, being short of 6 years,” he says but as of now he is working on the first part bit by bit where he is marking out his youth when “kaam kam aur shaitaniyan zyadi ki hain”.

The Commissioner of Karachi has a formula set, one which will result in the country to excel. “Be proud of yourself as a Pakistani and develop in yourself traits and attributes that wherever you are exported outside the territorial jurisdiction of the country you should stand the basic test of integrity and honesty. The secret to success reverberates in the corridors of his office; hopefully sometime soon it will sink deep into the city’s crossways.