Karachi — home for all
THE inception of Karachi began in 1729 as the village of Kolachi, having strategic benefits as a port city, the British East India Company, played a major role in developing Kolachi the village into Karachi the city.
Having a massive road-network along with a railroad system also allowed Karachi to connect to various parts of the nation, therefore being the lead candidate to assume the vital role of being the First Capital City of Pakistan.
With a population of 450,000 at the time of independence, Karachi was already the most populated city of Pakistan, however, post-partition led to a massive influx of Muslim refugees migrating to the city boosting the population at an unprecedented rate, for which the city was unprepared for, refugee camps were set up, slums were created and new identities were born in Karachi resulting in a drastic change of the demography of the city.
Karachi therefore became the most-ethnically diverse city of Pakistan, with people from across the country migrating to begin their new lives.
The city was filled with the sounds of different languages, to unite all Urdu was given the status of Pakistan’s National Language, and was the most widely spoken language of the city.
Being a coastal city, the development of Karachi’s harbour was of crucial strategic importance for the country, generating most of its revenue and boosting trade activity between other nations – As of 2019, Karachi had an estimated GDP (PPP) of $164 billion.
Unfortunately Political differences between various cultures and parties have led to dark moments in the history of Karachi.
Through protests and riots, Strikes and Marches, the toppling of regimes, and the unacceptable loss of innocents and Martyrs – Karachi has seen it all yet has remained resilient and just as relevant.
As of 2022, Karachi is unofficially estimated to have more than 25 million citizens stretched over 3780 km/sq.
Although now the former capital of Pakistan, it has and still does remain the premier and financial capital of Pakistan – Karachi is responsible for 1/3rd of the collection of tax revenue in Pakistan, while generating 20% of the country’s GDP as well as handling 95% of foreign trade.
With the largest fishery hub of Pakistan and multiple industrial zones, Karachi is accountable for the highest place of employment in the nation.
Once ranked as the 6th most dangerous city for crime in the world in 2014, it is now in 115th in mid-2021 with the credit going to the Pakistan Army and their Rangers operation, which brought down internal and external threats to Karachi and Pakistan, bringing back peace and stability.
Revered for its potential and history, Karachi has now expanded too deep into disparity and inequality.
Despite the numeric economic value of Karachi given, the physical reality of it does not match – we fail to have some of the most basic safeguards for any modern-economically progressive city.
There is a complete lack of pedestrians existing in most of Karachi as roads fail to have a footpath, let alone road markings in most of the city consequently allowing for people to walk on the roads causing inconvenience and danger.
The countless encounters of the monsoon rains in Karachi over the years have led to the whole city flooding and coming to a complete standstill every year, yet Karachi is still denied a proper sewerage system to counter and equip ourselves against such catastrophes.
The quality of the roads is below average – potholes are left exposed and speed breakers are built to break vehicles.
Exposed wires supplying electricity through poles not only affect the aesthetics of the city with jungles of wires crossed together but also present themselves as a hazard to all nearby – with most areas of Karachi experiencing load-shedding, issues can take hours to days, even months to resolve.
While lacking a proper transport system for the city, Karachi has finally been given the Rescue 1122 service this year (a government-run emergency service for health, fires and rescue operations).
In 1957, the Washington Post praised Karachi for its unpolluted beaches and unparalleled waters – as of today, Sea-View Karachi has no proper garbage disposal and is regarded as a dumpsite.
Limited desalination plants have contributed to a poor living experience with clean water being provided to homes in Karachi through private water tankers instead of a proper water line.
Through the reputation and success of the Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) during the 1950s until the 1990s, Karachi was described as the gateway to Asia as it connected to Central Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and Africa; it has since become the busiest airport of Pakistan.
The title has now been given to Dubai as the gateway to Asia – ironically, it was the PIA which helped with the formation, training and operating flights of Emirates Airlines.
Had Karachi been developed in accordance with a vision and plan for the future, it would surely have surpassed any Middle Eastern state.
Karachi has limitless potential yet limited facilities and resources provided for the people – the youth lack access to many recreational activities i.e sports, in the form of football parks or cricket grounds etc. instead they find the opportunity to play on the streets.
The level of IT skills in Pakistan is superior yet it is treated as a way for other nations to outsource work and pay the bare minimum wage to our workers, as there is little to no support by the governing bodies in Karachi to promote such homegrown talent.
Karachi’s schooling curriculum differs in each socio-economic area, neglecting the right to equal education with some areas having poor quality centres with inexperienced staff and teachers.
There is a lack of importance and promotion given to schooling for the public. Known as the city of lights, Karachi is home and welcome for all who come, it is the true representation of Jinnah’s vision of Pakistan.
A city not limited by race or caste, nor oppressed for religion or belief but a safe haven and home for those who call themselves Pakistanis.
Yet we, as a nation, have not yet been able to unlock the true potential of this city.
Karachi’s resilience is testament that no power on this earth can undo Pakistan as a nation, despite the difficulties faced, we are a nation proud of our land and heritage.
—The writer is Lawyer, Businessman.