KARACHI: There are many grandiloquent epithets used for Karachi, seemingly right out of a tourist guide. These include the city of lights, the city by the sea, the economic hub of Pakistan etc, etc. However, over the past couple of weeks, more than anything else, it has become the city of overflowing sewers and mounds of garbage. Perhaps, then, Karachi should be renamed the orphan city, as there is obviously no one to care for it.
Cleanliness is half of faith, we have been told since we were toddlers. Unfortunately, the impact of this wise maxim has not sunk in where society as a whole is concerned, especially where our rulers and administrators are concerned.
The shantytowns and hovels of the poor in Karachi have always been neglected where hygiene and sanitary conditions go. But now the monstrous wave of filth has touched the shores of the middle class, as well as the mansions of the rich.
In a strange twist of faith, following moderate to heavy rains combined with the Eidul Azha celebrations last week, the already creaky sanitation system of the city collapsed completely, as rainwater mixed with sewage entered homes, and the toxic stench of garbage mixed with offal created a deadly combo that made it hard to breathe.
There seemed to be no area in the city free from this menace, as main roads as well as quiet side streets were all affected. It would be interesting to see what a first-time visitor to Karachi would have thought of the pathetic state of this city. ‘Is this how these people live?’ he or she would ask themselves. ‘Amid piles of garbage, swarms of flies and puddles of sewage?’
And who is to be held responsible for this fiasco? The high and mighty of this nation are, of course, busy blaming each other.
The PPP-led provincial government, which runs the solid waste and water boards, quickly absolved itself of all blame while the MQM-led city administration pointed the finger towards CM House. The PTI, which sits in the Centre, launched a cavalier clean-up operation of its own. So did the Sindh government, apparently to counter the PTI move.
But where are the results?
To the common citizen, all of this seems like eyewash and political point-scoring. Finally, the prime minister had to take notice of this grotesque situation, when, on Friday, he called for measures to address Karachi’s sanitation situation.
Is this what we have come to? Does it have to take the prime minister of Pakistan to issue a call to arms to take action concerning an issue the local councillor, or at the most the local parliamentary assembly member, should be dealing with? For millions of ordinary Karachiites sick of the prevailing filth they have been forced to live in, only one question must have been on their minds: is this our fate?
Published in Dawn, August 25th, 2019