Such a potential city cannot be left to die at the hands of shenanigans
Karachi is a swelling cosmopolitan and is expanding both vertically and horizontally. It is rightly called a mini-Pakistan and undoubtedly the growth engine of the national economy with 67 per cent of proven revenue generation. Thus, with a surging population of more than 25 million, it is not immune to crime. Like any other mega-city, Karachi too has its complexities, distractions and a multitude of governance problems. But what makes it admonishing is the ad hocism with which it has been run for decades. Yet, it has evolved into a magnet for all and has the brave heart to accommodate everyone, and that too with something for all.
Karachi houses a complete Peshawar inside it; it has a sizeable Hazara too; an oasis of dwellers from Gilgit-Baltistan, a flexing Punjabi and an inherent Sindhi populace, apart from the millions of migrants who sit crisscrossed in redefining an identity of their own to this day. Irrespective of housing a coloured and dynamic mosaic, Karachi is not biased and has resiliently lived through the thick and thin. It was discriminated socio-politically, marginalised by snatching the status of being the national capital; it was led to bleed at the hands of an engineered power revulsion, witnessed mayhem and yet it has evolved into a cohesive demographic-cum-economic denominator, and is alive and kicking.
Such a potential city cannot be left to die at the hands of shenanigans. It longs for a perpetual ownership and, unfortunately, to this day the so-called stakeholders had only fleeced and dumped it. Politically it is a perfect case of orphanage, as all those who milked its electorate have thrived either offshore or somewhere far away from it.
Not to talk of the dilapidated infrastructure as it struggles to provide for basic civic amenities in a jungle of concrete and haphazard lifestyle. Karachi is once again gradually slipping into anarchy and lawlessness. Street crimes are on the rise, and the impugned culture of kidnapping for ransom and schemed murders are on the rise.
The other day, while watching a popular TV talk show, I was dumbstruck to learn that the crime graph in Karachi is taking us all down. During the year 2021, at least 541 people were killed; 55 incidents of ransom occurred; 2,060 cars were snatched and over 50,000 motorbikes lifted; 24,130 cases of mobile snatching were reported; and around 84,000 cases were registered on citizens’ complaints.
What was more shocking was the candid disclosure of Karachi Police chief Imran Yaqub Minhas that the proposal for installing 10,000 surveillance cameras is biting dust, whereas the city is in need of at least 200,000-plus such ultra-modern digital gadgets. Whither the concept of Safe City? This cannot go on with an unfairly treated populace struggling to make ends meet.
As a Karachiite, I can feel it. Though I have mostly lived away from it, there is an undeniable bond of fraternity: childhood, schooling, the heydays of liberalism at Karachi University, choosing a career in journalism merely because the city was egalitarian to the core, and last but not least having buried my parents here — it’s too difficult to ignore or abandon. It resides deep in my heart. I cry, wail, lament and try to fight back as it is discriminated against and taken for a ride by all and sundry. It is still abused and segregated, irrespective of the fact that it continues to humbly feed and embrace everyone!
Without much ado, Karachi’s problem can be fixed in a jiff if it is bestowed with an empowered City government, a rejuvenated municipality and an indigenous police force. It is a must that all local revenue be in Karachi’s purse, and it is rebuilt on a new master plan. Erasing illegal superstructures and encroachments is a foregone conclusion and the apex court is on the mark. To make a decent beginning, plough out Karachi from the intrigues of federal and provincial discord, and quick-fix it as a self-governed entity. Save Karachi to help Karachiites relive in peace. It is tantamount to saving Pakistan.
Note: This article appeared in Tribune, dated 25 January 2022.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are of the author and do not necessarily represent Institute’s policy.