Karachi notebook: Is a ‘Naya’ Karachi possible?

Updated August 26, 2018

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SCENES such as this are widespread across the metropolis.—White Star
SCENES such as this are widespread across the metropolis.—White Star

THE buzzword these days is Naya (new) Pakistan, the mantra that has arguably helped the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf capture power in the Centre and two provinces, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab, while doing respectably in Sindh and Balochistan. But for the residents of Karachi, the question on everyone’s minds is: will Naya Pakistan also mean a Naya Karachi?

By Naya Karachi one does not mean New Karachi, the neighbourhood on the northern tip of the metropolis beyond North Karachi. By Naya Karachi, one means a revived, clean and crime-free megacity that can be regenerated from the endless urban sprawl that currently exists. In his recent address to the nation, Prime Minister Imran Khan made it a point to address Karachi’s woes — and there is of course a long list.

For starters, there is the solid waste epidemic that has taken the city in its grip. Everywhere you go there are mounds of garbage. And while the provincial government has created the Sindh Solid Waste Management Board, this entity does not exist in all of Karachi’s six districts, while in the areas it is working, it leaves much to be desired.

Moreover, overflowing sewage is an ugly, ever-present reality across the city. It appears that the sewerage and drainage systems of the city have not been updated in decades, and are on their last legs. As for drinking water, there is a major crisis as the city does not receive enough water as it is. One can see lines forming by communal taps, as people line up to fill their containers with potable water.

Once upon a time muggers, target killers and kidnappers ran rampant across Karachi. However, thanks largely to the law enforcement operation initiated in 2013, levels of violent crime have come down considerably. However, Karachi is far from being a crime-free haven. For example, on the eve of Independence Day a little girl in the Gizri area was gunned down in crossfire between criminals and police during a botched mugging. Criminals also take advantage of traffic jams and loot motorists stuck in the snarl-ups.

This is of course just a small sampling of Karachi’s woes. However, one feels if sanitation, water and crime are addressed, this would be a much better city to live in. People talk about turning this city into Dubai, Singapore etc. That’s all very nice, but Karachi, currently dubbed one of the most unliveable cities on the globe, would be fine with being Karachi if the basics were put right.

That’s what the PTI, as well as the PPP, which controls the Sindh government, and the MQM, which has stakes in the metropolis, must work for: transforming Karachi into a peaceful, clean and sustainable city. If they pursue petty politics instead and work at cross-purposes, a Naya Karachi will not be possible. Here’s hoping for the best.

The Metropolitician

Published in Dawn, August 26th, 2018