Karachi searching for its soul
A city, reputed for its multi-dimensional features——an industrial hub, the revenue engine for the country, intellectually advanced, known for its cultural activism, suffered from gross neglect. The first signs of development came during Bhutto days, when gigantic projects like the Steel Mill, the Karachi Nuclear Power Plant, machine tool factory, were commissioned to provide a base for the country’s industrial growth.
He also changed the complexion of the city almost dramatically, broadening its principle roads like Drigh Road, renamed later as Share Faisal, Shaheen-e-Millat Road, Kashmir Road, Share Quaideen, and the Clifton Road. Multi storeyed concept was initiated, but had inherent drawbacks, flawed from the beginning. Multi storeyed buildings, flats and commercial areas, plazas, mushroomed overnight, but without any planning or vision, which brought immense pressure on utilities like electricity, sewerage, water supply , leading them to their natural collapse in the end.
Luckily for Karachiites, Mustafa Kamal came to the fore like and angel, and gave a whole new look to the city, working overtime, and compressing time to finish the development projects far ahead of schedule. He was a blessing for the city and was rightly ranked among the world’s best mayors. His own hard work, vision and initiative is irrefutable, but the backing of the then President Musharraf, the supervision of the Sindh governor and the policy guidelines from the party, all combined together to produce the kind of result that sincerity of purpose and commitments invariably produce. The city today has a network of flyovers, fast track roads, but all the good work done between 2005 and 2010, stood nullified. Streets are again dirty, development has practically been halted, and maladministration, which the MQM had so vehemently and contemptuously discarded, is now the order of the day.
Karachi was known for its night life. Those who have seen it at its glory, recall with considerable sorrow how did the intellectuals adorned the coffee houses, bars etc, night clubs likened the city to Paris or Beirut of the pre-civil war. Even after Bhutto tried to win over religious leaders by banning night clubs,horse racing, and betting house, not much could change, and Karachi, continued to flourish in many other fields. The real trouble began when the coffee house culture was debased and destroyed completely by the drugs and the kashnikovs after late General Ziaul Haq fought the proxy war in Afghanistan and bartered the country’s peace and tranquility for his own selfish gain.He perpetuated in power with American help, but the country had to pay a heavy price. Afghanis came here to occupy big business, brought drugs, arms and ammunition which kept proliferating, remained unchecked even after Junejo, against the wishes of Zia, signed the Geneva treaty for Soviet withdrawal. But then the American invasion of Afghanistan, in which Pakistan was lured into, shook the country’s foundations.
Karachi, being the gateway to outside world, saw outsiders stationing themselves here, often with State blessings, and began to generate and give boost to a parallel economy. Those coming to Karachi later mixed up with these Afghans, and then the unceasing Taliban invasion, heaped misery on the people of this city. Those coming from upcountry, and living here since decades, refused to be part of the machinations of mafias, tempting them to be part of the loot. They refused because they wanted to and did live in perfect peace with their neighbours of different ethnic background and culture. But the mafias tempted them and excited them to indulge in land grabbing. A fratricidal war was its natural outcome. Various linguistic groups and political factions, got involved in loot and plunder. Karachi, tried bravely to save its reputation of being the most advanced city of the country, but all its efforts vexed, waned and eclipsed. More than 1,000 souls perished during the last couple of years, and Karachi became a killing field, with blood of the innocents flowing on its streets.
Police apathy to the situation is deplorable. Rangers are at the mercy of the civilian administration and do not wish to burn fingers unnecessarily. Police power has been given to them, but orders are given from somewhere else. The problem has now become ticklish and extremely complex. Nothing in the world is without solution. Karachi too can be restored its status, and revive its image to the outside world for investments and revival of its industrial activity, provided bureaucratic solutions are either replaced by suggestions from elected representatives of the city, or the city MNA and MPAs are given absolute powers to command the police and the Rangers. The role of a political party is to solve problems, howsoever complex.
Here the situation is different. Bureaucracy is constantly being over-patronised—an attitude reflecting poorly on the ruling PPP. Elected representatives must be given charge to restore peace and police be asked to follow their guidelines. Else Karachi will continue to seek unabated killings on the streets and the police will remain victim of vengeance from those fearing arrest or are being hounded out. Recent police killings and attacks on a superintendent of police force is a glaring example of the rapidly worsening situation. The government, its coalition partners, the PPP, MQM and ANP all have to rise from petty politics and address the situation through mutual understanding.