ASK any town planner or genuine sympathiser of Karachi about what’s the biggest problem — or one of the main issues, as some would like to phrase it — that the city is faced with and their response most likely will be: population explosion. The Sindh capital, in 2019, is bursting at the seams. So much so that it has become a nightmare for the people in power and for institutions to manage it. Also, these days it is extremely difficult to keep track of who’s moving where within the city.

Here’s an interesting nugget of info in that context: 50 years back, the Election Commission was alert to the situation. On Oct 23, 1969 the Karachi Municipal Corporation (KMC) and the Karachi Development Authority (KDA) were asked to notify in advance to the Regional Election Commission any intended shift of population in the Karachi district. It didn’t take much time for both civic bodies to send their replies. The corporation assured the commission it had no such plans, but the KDA submitted a list of about half a dozen colonies whose residents were likely to be shifted to some other place. An operation by the KDA was already half-way through in the Godhra Camp. Similar operations were to start soon in the Artillery Maidan zone, Bizerta Lines, Firdous Colony and the area around the Jinnah Hospital. The commission was making arrangements to enlist the people after they had been placed in new homes. The lists of female voters were likely to be published by the commission at the time of the finalisation of the draft rolls, which was being done to ‘facilitate the housewives’.

Mind you, Karachi wallahs weren’t the only ones who were being looked at. The city, at the time, was an international tourist attraction. On Oct 26, the Department of Tourism announced it was conducting sample surveys at Karachi airport on the requirements of foreign tourists which would serve as a guide for the schemes to be included in future plans. The survey, undertaken by the Investment Advisory Centre of Pakistan for the Department of Tourism, was to make a detailed assessment of the existing arrangements of hotels, the transport system, rest houses and other facilities available for tourists. The week-long assessment was to be done through a questionnaire that tourists would be required to fill out at the time of their arrivals and departures.

Not that things at the time were all hunky dory for the citizens, leave alone foreigners. On Oct 26, it was reported that Karachi had been rendered short of at least 66,000KW of electricity since the previous day. This happened because of a ‘major fault’ in one of the two huge generators of the Karachi Electric Supply Corporation (KESC, now KE) at the Korangi power station. Engineers were of the view that the fault would have to be looked into by the experts of the manufacturing concern. They were already on their way and would start working at it soon. However, it would still take quite a number of days to rectify the defect and therefore the production of power would be less than 66,000KW until the repairs had been done. (Some things never change!)

From the bleak to the bright: on Oct 26, the birthday of the Shahanshah of Iran was celebrated in Karachi. Apart from a meeting presided over by Mirza Imtiaz Hussain at a notable event at which he paid tribute to the Shahanshah of Iran for his farsighted policies, Dr Ahmed Minal, consul general of Iran, gave a reception at the Clifton consulate to celebrate the day.

Published in Dawn, October 21st, 2019