Problems Of Karachi And Their Solutions

(Syeda Kaneez Fatima, Karachi)

While law and order situation in Pakistan’s mega city, Karachi, is much better and improved than ever before, largely due to effective ‘Karachi operation’, and the world has now considered it among the safe cities.

Karachi has three major problems, crime, terrorism, political injustice and despite been an economic hub, never got its due share.

If we really want to sustain the peaceful atmosphere in Karachi, it is very important that in addition to law and order, city’s core issue need to be addressed and we are still far from it, which has made this city of over 20 million, unmanageable and yet, no one ready to ‘own’ this city, but, everyone looking for its ‘share’.

It is time that we must stop looking at Karachi, only from an ethnic perspective or as a city of one party or one group. What the political leadership and government need to understand is that the city is also the provincial capital of Sindh. Question is why Karachi cannot become Lahore or Islamabad?

The city like Karachi cannot be ruled the way it is being governed for the past 70 years. Though, it is history now but shifting federal capital from Karachi to Islamabad was perhaps the biggest disservice to Karachi and with the people of Sindh.

Influx of population from other cities has always been a good sign provided the city is planned, accordingly. Ownership of the Karachi has been the biggest problem due to which successive governments never took keen interest in developing its commercial hub, which provide over 70 percent revenue even in worst conditions. The dilemma is that we as a nation never did to the city, which has been backbone of our economy, which gave birth to negative trends both in politics and governance.

Today, the city is nearly unmanageable and if we fail to find a solution it would soon be, ungovernable. So, what is the solution to the problem and why successive government failed, resulting in the birth of a party like the MQM. Whether the party will survive or die, but, if the problem remains unresolved it may lead to another kind of unrest, which may be uncontrollable.

Solution to Karachi must be addressed above all political and ethnic dispensation. Serious doubts have been created during 2017 Census and even independent observers expressed doubt over the census results. By not giving the true picture of its population is yet another biased approach towards its own economic hub. The observers believe the city has the population of over 20 million.

Therefore, this approach needs to be changed if we are really sincere in addressing Karachi problems.

(1) Determine the exact population of Karachi and prepare the ‘master plan’, accordingly without which you cannot give due share for city’s development.

(2) Give Karachi, the status of a metropolitan city with all its manifestation like all metropolis or mega cities around the world.

(3) Whether through direct election or existing local bodies system, the elected mayor

should be the ‘father’ of the whole city and not merely 34 percent.

(4) Karachi must have its own police commissioner and localised police system, above all political and ethnic consideration with zero political interference.

(5) Promote the culture of merit, both in jobs and education.

(6) Make Karachi hub of cultural activities and though institutions like Arts Council of Karachi, and NAPA playing its role much more is needed. City needs plan and not unplanned ‘food streets’.

(7) It is time for the complete revival of Karachi’s playgrounds and parks. Some 80 percent of these grounds and parks have been ‘sold’.

(8) Through a well-planned conspiracy over the years, there is a big scam in the rising ‘Katchi Abadis’, which are now nearly 7,000.

(9) Terrorism and law and order, is only one aspect of the problem and the city cannot run for decades under ‘Rangers or para-military” or through unfinished operation. It requires a lasting political solution and a will to address the issue. Therefore, the role of the federal as well as Sindh governments is the key. But, they need to look to the solution above ‘ethnic-biased’, which is something missing.

(10) Karachi need ‘Karachi Action Plan’, after Karachi operation and that too on fast pace. Can you imagine a metropolitan city without a ‘master plan’ for almost 40 years and even the one prepared lack the vision. The city, which once was governed under Karachi Development Authority, KDA, had now been divided and sudden expansion of Cantonment Board and Defense Housing Authority, DHA, further aggravated the situation.

Due to massive corruption, Karachi’s major development projects take from 10 years to 40 years like Karachi Mass Transit, KMT, Karachi Circular Railway, Lyari Expressway and as a result the solution becomes problem. This is exactly what is going on in Karachi and except for one or two, all its flyovers, underpasses reflect work of most incompetent engineers, who lacked vision. Yet, they become millionaires and billionaires with the passage of time.

Unfortunately, every party and group as well as governments and establishment are waiting for the ‘final fall of the MQM’, in all its form and manifestations. The MQM may survive or die a natural or unnatural death, but, if the problem in urban Sindh exists, it may give birth to another party like the MQM, in future.

It took almost four decades before much controversial ‘quota system’, abolished in 2013. I always believe that the idea behind the system adopted during Zulfikar Ali Bhutto’s government was not bad in uplifting the Sindhi middle class and deprived section of the society, but, it was badly implemented and laid the foundation of Mohajir politics.

He only wanted quota system for 10 years but, successive governments used it for ‘politician reasons’, which further created the gulf and sadly, never tried to uplift the education system in rural areas, resulting in complete decline of education and merit culture in whole Sindh.

Karachi’s problem aggravated because no ruler tried to bridge the ‘rural-urban’ divide. On the contrary, the successive rulers politicised the issue and created further division for political reasons. Unfortunately, the thinking has not changed as yet and we have not even able to differentiate between Karachiites and Mohajirites. Treating whole Karachi with a particular mindset has always been key to the problem.

If Gen Zia and former president Pervez Musharraf used Mohajirs for their political gains, the PPP governments could become the real stakeholder of this city had it owned the city instead of treating it with biased approach.

The PPP has a role to play and can win over the city if they work on abovementioned proposals. The dilemma of our political parties had been their neglect towards promoting local government system. Instead of empowering local governments, giving them financial and administrative powers, the provincial governments want to ‘control’ the system, directly.

Karachi is Sindh and there is no doubt about it. Therefore, the government needs to treat it as its ‘face’ for the world. Sindh is lucky that this city is a commercial and economic hub of the country. Yet, no one is ready to take its ownership. This in itself reflects bias and no wonder why Karachi witnessed ethnic, sectarian and political violence which resulted in killing of thousands of people.

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