Karachi: a unique mega city

By Shahid Javed Burki

Pakistan continues to be an unstable place. Its economic managers are still searching for a long-term strategy. They have still to define what needs to be done to produce a rate of growth that is high enough to reduce the level of poverty and that can be sustained over a sufficiently long period of time.

A well-defined strategy is needed to really change the country's economic fortune. Pakistan's political system remains in a state of flux, with political parties still underdeveloped, the provinces not trusted with much power by the central authority and the role of the military still largely undetermined.

The country's society is torn by two impulses that could push it in entirely different directions. The large middle class would like to see the country become part of the global economic and political system into which the country's citizens would have easy access.

This is presumably the aim of the strategy President Musharraf is currently pursuing. On the other hand, a relatively small but influential segment of the population would like to see the country opt out of the global system and withdraw into a state identified with the early days of Islam.

Nearly six decades after its creation, Pakistan has not succeeded in building a sense of nationhood. Mohammad Ali Jinnah's dream that he would be able to create a separate homeland for the Muslim population of British India in which the people of his faith would live their lives according to their own culture, practising their own beliefs and yet continuing to be fully engaged with the world at large remains to be realized.

What has gone wrong? There are many answers to this question. One set of answers I began to provide in this series of articles. These focus on some demographic convulsions that have affected Pakistan from the time of its birth. In Pakistan's case, demography has proved to be a more destabilizing factor than for most other large developing countries.

A rapid increase in the size of the population was not the only demographic convulsion Pakistan has had to endure. Of equal significance were the five movements of people that changed the characteristics of the Pakistani population over the last several decades. The first of these was the exchange of populations in 1947 when Hindus and Sikhs departed from the country to be replaced by Muslims who arrived from India.

The second was the movement of people from the country's northern areas into Karachi, to build the new capital. The third took millions of people out of the country to jobs in the Middle East.

The fourth brought millions of refugees from Afghanistan into Pakistan, some of whom managed to locate themselves in Karachi. The fifth created Pakistani diasporas in Europe and North America.

Some of these movements profoundly affected Karachi, which, as a consequence, is a city 60 times larger than its size in 1947 when it was selected to become Pakistan's first capital.

Not only has Karachi become one of the world's "mega-cities" - cities with populations of more than 10 million people. It also has a number of unique attributes that have had great significance for Pakistan's development. With this article, I begin to tell the story of Karachi.

In 2004, two thirds of Pakistan's population of 152 million - or 100 million people - live in the countryside and another 52 million people live in dozens of large cities and hundreds of small towns scattered throughout the country. Karachi, the largest city, now has a population estimated at 13 million people, nearly 60 times its size in 1947 when it became the country's first capital.

Lahore, the largest city in 1947, has more than ten million people in 2004. This estimate is much greater than that provided by the Population Census of 1998 since it defines an entity which might be called "Greater Lahore".

This includes not only Lahore but also some of the towns that were once beyond the city's boundaries but which are now well integrated economically and spatially into the city. Karachi and Greater Lahore together account for nearly half of the total urban population and 15 per cent of the entire population of the country.

Karachi is unique among the world's mega cities not only because of its extraordinary growth over the last six decades. What makes the city exceptional is the fact that nearly 11 million of its 13 million people have little or no connection with the city's hinterland.

Most mega cities in the developing world grew as a result of migration from the countryside not too distant from them. Karachi's growth was the consequence, in large part, of long-distance immigration. This is not a new phenomenon in the city's history; Karachi had always attracted foreigners to its shores.

According to Alexander Baillee, who wrote about the city in the latter part of the nineteenth century, "there is a constant flow of temporary visitors, consisting of natives from the surrounding country and from remote districts of the Province; of Kutchees, Baluchees, Mooltanese, and Punjabees from inland, and of Arabs and Persians form the Gulf."

What made the difference in the second half of the twentieth century was the sheer size of the migrant population that had come from afar to settle in the city.

Pakistan's urban population increased at an average rate of 4.2 per cent a year over the past six decades. Had Karachi grown at the same rate, its population in 2004 would have reached 2.3 million, not the estimated 13 million in 2004.

Where did the additional nearly 11 million residents of the city come from? They arrived from many different places and established their own colonies. They maintained their separate identity and began to clash with one another, particularly during periods of economic distress.

Karachi has separate communities in which the city's many distinct ethnic groups live separate lives. These include the refugees who came from India in 1947, migrants from the Northwest Frontier Province and Punjab, and refugees from Afghanistan.

Dispersed within these communities and also within the relatively modern parts of the city are various other ethnicities. There are, perhaps, a million illegal migrants from Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka now resident in Karachi.

More recently, a relatively small number of militant Arabs, educated and trained in the madressahs in the northern and northwestern areas of the country, have joined the migrant population in Karachi. This group has brought to the city a new ideology associated with Al Qaeda.

Karachi, as is the common impression, is not a predominantly mohajir city, with most of its people descendent from the refugees who arrived from the parts of India in which Urdu was the mother tongue.

According to the census of 1951, these people numbered 608,000, out of a population of just over a million at that time. Had the size of this group increased at the same rate as the rest of the country - at 2.8 per cent a year from 1947 to 2004 - their number today would have been around 2.6 million, or 20 per cent of the city's total population.

Counting among the mohajir some of those who arrived in Karachi after the 1951 census was taken, the size of this community is perhaps of the order of about three million, less than a quarter of the city's population. The Muhajir population was later overwhelmed in numbers, if not in influence, by other migrant groups.

Pushtuns, Punjabis and Kashmiris together outnumber the original residents of Karachi, and also the Urdu-speaking migrants from India. More than six million people belong to these three ethnic groups.

Of these some than three million are Pushtuns, two and a half million are northern Punjabis and about half a million are Kashmiris. Of all the ethnic groups in the city, the Pushtuns have as large a presence in the city as the Muhajir community. But even the Pushtuns don't form a cohesive ethnic entity. They have come from what are referred to as the "settled areas" in the province of North Western Frontier (NWFP) - so called since the law of the land applies to them.

Then there are people from the unsettled tribal areas which have their own laws and customs and where the writ of the government does not run. And then there are the various groups of Afghan refugees who have taken up residence in the city within the confines of the Pushtun bustis.

The Punjabis, Pushtuns and Kashmiris initially came to Karachi as workers during the construction boom that lasted for a decade and a half, from 1947 to 1962. In 1947, Karachi was chosen to be Pakistan's capital; in 1962, with the decision by the government of Ayub Khan to move the capital to the vicinity of Islamabad, this boom came to an abrupt halt.

By that time construction workers had already established their colonies - or bustis and abadis - each with its own distinct social, economic and political characteristics. These colonies continued to attract new migrants who arrived from the areas from which the original settlers had come.

The third large wave of migration came to Karachi in the 1970s. This was associated with the next construction boom in the country when the government of Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto turned its attention towards the economic revival of the city.

Bhutto, a Sindhi, was attached to Karachi, the capital city of that province. But by the time he came to power, Karachi had lost its "Sindhness;" it was more of a Muhajir and a Pashtun city than Sindhi. However, Bhutto's attempt to boost Karachi's economic prospects generated ethnic conflict that was to turn many parts of the city into killing fields.

Debate assumes new importance

By Mike Allen and John F. Harris

Tomorrow's vice-presidential debate, which both campaigns once presumed would be a side show to the presidential race, has assumed critical importance, with Republicans depending on Vice-President Cheney to halt the ticket's slide in momentum.

After what Republicans acknowledge was President Bush's faltering performance in his televised encounter with Democratic nominee John F. Kerry, GOP strategists said Cheney's aim is to return public attention to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and the administration's broader handling of the terrorism threat and away from what they called a "second-guessing" debate over the decision to invade Iraq.

A Republican official involved in Cheney's preparation for his encounter with Sen. John Edwards said the vice-president will try to bring fresh attention to the themes "that shoot out of the 9/11 set of memories and issues - preparedness, safety and homeland security."

Kerry's aides are hoping that at the debate in Cleveland, Edwards will summon his skills as a trial lawyer to cast Cheney as the architect of the administration's worst policy judgments, as well as a symbol of corporate excess because of his former position as chief executive of Halliburton, which has received huge Iraq contracts but has also faced accusations of improper billing there.

Vice-presidential debates historically have not been consequential in presidential contests, but strategists with both parties say the timing and personalities of this one could make it an exception.

American politics in recent decades has rarely offered a more vivid stylistic and substantive contrast than Cheney, 63, and Edwards, 51. The Republican is a balding, gruff veteran of GOP administrations and the corporate boardroom.

The Democrat is a newcomer with news-anchor hair and a personal fortune and political reputation made by theatrical attacks against powerful interests in the courtroom and on the campaign trail.

Both sides have given indications that they are a bit spooked by the potential strengths of the other. During negotiations over the debates, the Bush-Cheney team rejected a "town meeting" format for the vice presidential debate.

Republicans feared such a format would allow Edwards to walk about like a lawyer giving a closing statement and maximize his presumed skill in engaging with ordinary voters.

Instead, the two men will sit at a desk with a moderator, just as Cheney and Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman (D-Conn.) did in the vice presidential debate four years ago. Tad Devine, a Kerry consultant, said this format was one of the concessions the Democratic side made in exchange for Bush's side agreeing to three presidential debates.

Cheney does not lack for advantages of his own. Although he is hardly a charismatic politician in the traditional sense, he has some skills that make him well suited for television.

These include an articulate command of issues that Democrats acknowledge is superior to that of Edwards, as well as a cool and subdued style that allows him to score even tough points in a conversational style.

"He doesn't have the option of being the nice guy that he was in the 2000 debate," said a Democratic official involved in debate preparation who declined to be identified. "He has to really come out swinging."

Perhaps, but Cheney has often proved elusive for Democrats. In 2000, according to someone who helped Lieberman prepare, the senator assumed that Cheney would play the traditional vice-presidential candidate attack role. When Cheney was a model of civility, Lieberman was left unprepared to score his points and lost much of the edge, said this person, who declined to be named.

Edwards's advisers said his principal aim has always been to validate his selection by Kerry and reassure viewers that he has the seasoning and knowledge for the job, despite a government resume limited to one Senate term.

They said last week's debate gives Edwards a unique opportunity to amplify the case Kerry made about the Iraq invasion being a "colossal error" and also shift the campaign conversation toward domestic policy issues, where Democrats historically run stronger.

Cheney and Edwards were cloistered in debate practice yesterday, after weeks of preparation. Cheney is at his home near Jackson, Wyo., and enlisted Rep. Rob Portman (Ohio) to play his sparring partner, as he did in 2000.

Edwards has retreated to historic Chautauqua, N.Y., settling in at the same 19th-century resort where President Bill Clinton practised for a 1996 debate against Republican Robert J. Dole. Washington lawyer Bob Barnett is repeating his 2000 role, playing Cheney in practice with Edwards.

Beyond the implications for the Nov. 2 election, both men have much to prove for the sake of their personal reputations. Cheney is said by friends to have been furious about speculation - never accurate, by all insider accounts - that Bush was weighing whether to drop him, and he is eager to address the criticism that gave rise to the speculation.

"The debate is a chance for Cheney to vindicate the decision to pick him in the first place and to give him the wide-ranging authority he has had during this administration," said a Cheney friend who declined to be named.

"He needs to halt the energy that the Kerry ticket got out of the first debate, and if he does that, it will provide a lot of balance to the negatives that are associated with Cheney's involvement in Halliburton."

The H-word is indeed likely to be heard from Edwards, as it has been on the campaign trail. Howard Wolfson, a Democratic National Committee adviser, predicted a tough indictment from Edwards on Halliburton, which he called "a one-word answer to a lot of questions, and a symbol of corporate malfeasance, crony capitalism and poor planning in Iraq."

On Iraq, said a Cheney adviser who declined to be named, the vice-president wants to recast the debate away from Kerry's emphasis on judgments that proved wrong - such as the suspected presence of weapons of mass destruction or the prediction that the postwar occupation would be marked by welcoming Iraqis - toward Bush's emphasis, which is that in the wake of Sept. 11 the nation must move preemptively to confront potential threats.

Cheney is going to remind people that "preemptive war is not something you do for fun - it was based on a view of real threats," said the official involved in Cheney's preparation who also declined to be identified.

Edwards, too, has something to prove. Some senior Democrats have grumbled that he has not been the aggressive advocate for Kerry on the campaign trail that they had hoped, unwilling until recently to throw the rough punches that are often assigned to running mates.

Moreover, for all the brio he brings to his well-practised stump speech, Edwards is not always effective in spontaneous settings, such as during NBC's "Meet the Press" when he gave a middling performance last year as a presidential candidate.

Edwards is leaving the Senate at the end of his term. This leaves the 90 minutes at Case Western Reserve University as a golden opportunity - and arguably sole opportunity - to prove that Kerry made the right choice of running mate if the ticket wins, or to set Edwards up for another presidential run if Democrats fall short next month. - Dawn/Washington Post Service

No matter who loses, Israel will win

By Omar Kureishi

I was very saddened to read of the passing away of Mulk Raj Anand though not surprised since he was 98-years old. I knew him though there was a gap of a generation between us.

It was 1947 and India was in turmoil and would be soon turned topsy-turvy. I have written at some length about that period in time in my book Once Upon A Time and Mulk Raj Anand makes a cameo appearance as a kind and wonderful man who became my mentor for a brief period of time and who taught me that the anger should be in the writing and not in the writer.

Indians and Pakistanis who write novels in English have become quite common and some of them have scaled great literary heights including my nephew, Hanif, but they are modern writers and seem too self-absorbed.

Mulk Raj Anand was an uncomplicated man and that he found the time to befriend a young man who was just starting out in journalism, still wet behind his ears, must say something about his goodness. One more light has gone out.

As I write this the fate of Ken Bighley, the British hostage is still unknown while the two Italian girls have been released and they were given a rousing homecoming and even the Italian prime minister was at hand to welcome them home. Whether or not a ransom was paid for their release is beside the point. But the presence of the Italian prime minister had its own irony for he is a hawk on the war in Iraq and a very gung-ho coalition partner and has sent Italian troops to fight the good fight against those who refuse to be liberated and who are putting up such a fierce resistance against those who want to bestow the gift of democracy.

One hopes that Ken Bighley will be freed and will soon join his family. There has been quite a build-up of public opinion in Britain but Tony Blair has stuck to his position that he will not negotiate with the hostage-takers.

In theory and as an abstraction, this is the right position. But Ken Bighley has been humanized and we know that he has an ageing mother, a Thai wife, a brother. He is no longer an anonymous hostage.

In a way, he symbolizes all the cruelty of the war in Iraq. If only all the Iraqis who are being killed in such large numbers, morning, noon and night could be given a name and a family that weeps for them with the same divine despair as if they were human beings instead of the bodies found in bombed-out rubble.

Someone in the Pentagon or in the White House who are reputed to be church going and God-fearing may be conscience-stricken. After all, we must answer to our Maker in the final reckoning.

The televised debate between George Bush and John Kerry showed, what we had known all along, that the two are Tweedledum and Tweedledee. They both share the same ideology and neither seems to have an exit strategy in Iraq.

I started taking an interest in American politics when I was studying there. Many of my friends were ' liberals ' before the word became a term of abuse. But tthese friends were Democrats. But it did not take long to find out that Democrats and Republicans were two sides of the same coin. There might have been some difference of views on local issues but on major policies, there were the same.

What struck me most in the Bush-Kerry debate was that there was not a single reference to Palestine and yet there was a lot of talk on the war on terror. How can we even begin to start winning the war on terror without, first and foremost, resolving the Israeli-Palestine disputes? Bush sometimes mentions Palestine in an absent-minded sort of way but John Kerry does not mention it at all.

It is almost, as if the subject is taboo. One thing seems certain that no matter who loses, Kerry or Bush, Israel will win. Both Kerry and Bush say that they will give priority to nuclear proliferation but they have North Korea and Iran on their radar, not Israel which has been a nuclear power for many years and is excluded from those countries that have weapons of mass destruction.

The only valid point made by John Kerry was that the United States had been attacked by Osama bin Laden and not by Saddam Hussein and from the documents available and the number of books that have been written, plans to invade Iraq had been made well before 9/11.

Yet so relentless has been the propaganda that the vast majority of the American public believe that there was a nexus between Saddam Hussein and terrorism and the insurgency in Iraq is being reported as an act of terrorism.

In the meanwhile, Tony Blair has announced that he proposes to seek a third term as prime minister. At the Labour Party Conference at Brighton, he did not apologize to his party members for misleading them on Saddam Hussein's weapons though he did admit that these weapons had not been found.

He did say defiantly that he would not apologize for overthrowing Saddam Hussein. Iraq is a better place without him. This is the old, trick question:" Have you stopped beating your wife"? There is an election due in Britain next year. Is this possible that the British electorate may decide that Britain may be a better place without Tony Blair?

I hope some sort of count is being kept about the Iraqi dead. three million Vietnamese were killed and by those standards, the Iraqis have a long way to go. But the Vietnam war lasted many years and the war in Iraq is still young. But the killing ratio appears to be more or less the same. Does it matter that Iraqi men, women and children continue to die?

Waiting for the Bush team's last trick

By M.J. Akbar

Four years in power and two years of war have improved George Bush. The last time he discussed foreign policy with a presidential opponent on television, he couldn't quite remember the name of the guy from Pakistan.

More to the point, he didn't really care. This time the phonetics department of the Oxford English Dictionary could have advertised his mastery of the syllables in the name of the Polish prime minister.

Bush also caught a potential fumble just in time. He was halfway through accusing John Kerry of sending a "mixed message" when he drew away from the spoonerism and returned to "mixed message".

At one point Bush did claim that he was "fighting vociferously" against terrorism, but Jay Leno and David Letterman are not going to be able to have as much fun with that. They would have put "mixed message" on a slow fire and tortured it to death.

The problem, alas, is not Bush's "mixed message" but his fixed message. While Iraq burns on every television screen, the leader of the free world whistles in the dark. His recipe for the colossal mistake (Kerry's phrase) is to condemn anyone with an alternative view, as unpatriotic or confused or possibly in secret dalliance with Osama bin Laden.

The first of the three debates between Bush and Kerry was not really a debate but a statement of partisan positions. In theory, this suited Bush fine because he has danced successfully to old tunes before and seemed to be swinging back to the White House again.

Kerry seemed, in contrast, to trip over every phrase. Moreover, Bush can be dogmatic even when there is no dogma to lean on. That always energizes his pre-programmed base.

Bush chose the dogmatic way out. He did not answer most of the questions that Kerry raised. It is possible that he was surprised at the main thrust of the attack. He may have convinced himself that Kerry could never be direct. Kerry, however, had all the clarity of a man staring at a noose.

When you have nothing more to lose you can be honest. Kerry asked Bush why he had declared war on Iraq when Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11, a conclusion reaffirmed by the 9/11 enquiry commission.

Kerry asked why Bush had taken his eye off Osama bin Laden still nestling in some corner of the mountains of Afghanistan and still plotting forms of revenge against the United States.

He wanted to know why Osama had been allowed to escape after he had been surrounded at Tora Bora and offered an answer that must have made Bush wince: because the war in Afghanistan had been "out sourced" to the warlords whose loyalty shifted with the breeze. He wanted to know why elections had been postponed thrice and why Afghanistan still provided 75 per cent of the world's opium.

He demanded to know why Bush had rushed to war in Iraq without a genuine international alliance and dismissed claims that there was an alliance by the simple statistics that America was taking 90 per cent of the casualties and paying 90 per cent of the cost, now estimated to be around $200 billion.

Kerry pointed out tellingly that more American soldiers had died in June, in a single month than ever before, and more in July than June, and more in August than July.

Was this the meaning of "mission accomplished"? He wanted to know why American troops had been ordered to protect the oil ministry building after the fall of Baghdad, rather than the nuclear programme offices that might have provided a clue to the ostensible reason for the war, the weapons of mass destruction that would now never be found.

He demanded to know if American troops had gone to free Iraq or occupy it. If the reason was freedom, then why were 14 permanent military bases being constructed? He challenged the president on Saddam saying bluntly that the dictator had never attacked America while the man who had was free in Afghanistan.

He accused Bush of using 9/11 as an excuse to make war on Iraq. He took on the big boys, whether Halliburton or the chemical industry. But the central charge was one that will probably resonate best with the security moms who have become a defined category of this election: why had Bush launched a hasty war without a plan to win the peace?

Good stuff and better late than never. It is ever so dangerous to be ahead in the polls. Bush was smarter when he was trailing Kerry. Complacency is such a coma as you can check with the BJP in Delhi.

The Republicans have spent nearly $200 million in one way or another caricaturing Kerry as a seesaw. They became victims of their own advertising. Bush had clearly come to debate a waffler. He was baffled by facts. At one point he began to blink rapidly, an image caught by the cameras. Democrats should turn that image into an advertisement.

Kerry only raised questions that the world has been asking ever since the Iraq crisis began, but which have been screened out of the highest levels of American discourse either out of fear of being labelled "soft" on Saddam or terrorism.

Even balanced media has been reluctant to push towards the obvious. As I write, CNN reports that American troops have launched a major offensive to retake the city of Samarra from insurgents. Forgive my ignorance, but I do not recall being told that a city as important as Samarra had fallen to insurgents.

The New York Times reports that "Over the past month (September) more than 2,300 attacks have been directed against civilians and military targets in Iraq in a pattern that sprawls over nearly every major population centre outside the Kurdish north..." So there is no "Shia-Sunni divide" anymore, just a Kurdish-Iraqi divide.

The attacks stretch from "Nineveh and Salahuddin provinces in the northwest to Babyl on and Diyala in the centre and Basra in the south ... (through) car bombs, time bombs, rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades, small-arms fire, mortar attacks and land mines". It adds up to an average of 80 attacks a day. If you know of any other definition of chaos do write in.

Bush tried to defend his record. He might have been briefed better. He claimed that he had "brought to justice" the godfather of a "network of terror", Dr A.Q. Khan. Pardon and retirement in mother country is not quite living in Guantanamo Bay as Kerry forgot to mention, but as someone else certainly will.

Kerry has facts on his side, Bush has sentiment. Facts should win; alas, virtue is a variable asset in elections. The Iraq war was born of a lie and has slithered into a septic morass because the oil-and-ideology lobby is more interested in its own welfare than either America's or the world's.

It is a measure of the contempt with which Bush treats the rest of the world that he has seized a remark by Kerry, on the need for a global perspective for war, as his post-debate campaign theme. (America will not take orders ... etc etc etc.)

Kerry returned to the race by testing the tensile strength of the conservative definition of American patriotism. He threw away the blanket of "safe" positions into which he had been wrapped by advisers who had no more to lose than their consultancy fees. He challenged Bush with a left hook and sent the champion of the right reeling.

So what gives? The election isn't over till the fat chads of Florida sing. The Bush team has time for one last pony trick, and that trick could lie in South Asia. Welcome, Osama bin Laden.

I have no idea whether Osama has a TV set that picks up BBC and CNN in his customized mountain cave or not, but his deputy and spokesman Ayman Zawahri was among the first to respond to the debate.

In a tape delivered to Al Jazeera he urged the faithful to continue the "holy war" against the United States even if the top leadership was caught. He realized that the Bush team will now seek, perhaps with an element of desperation, to offer Osama as a pre-poll gift to the electorate.

Welcome, Pervez Musharraf. You can put away your jokes now. This is getting serious. Islamabad's official position is that Osama is in Afghanistan which is why they cannot find him.

The CIA position is that Osama is in Pakistan which is why they cannot find him. However, no one really doubts that the epicentre of the Osama quake is in the mountains that straddle the borders of the two countries. The pressure on Musharraf must have multiplied ever since Bush slipped in Miami. Will the Pakistan Army deliver?

I wonder if Mullah Omar, who is certainly in Afghanistan, would do, but I rather doubt it. He has not been built up sufficiently as a monster. The American voter is looking for a tall Arab with a beard, not a short Afghan with a single eye.

Osama was safe as long as Bush was safe. Trouble for Bush means trouble for Osama. So it might be a good idea for Osama to switch off that TV set for a while and throw that satellite phone away. An electronic signal is the perfect guide to your destination.

The fate of the world's empire builders has hinged on the rocks of Afghanistan before. History, that mischievous little imp, threatens to repeat itself.

The writer is editor, Asian Age, New Delhi.


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