Monsoon challenge

Updated 29 Jul 2020

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OVER a two-day period, on Sunday and Monday, the people of Karachi went through another hellish rain-related experience. Again, a few millimetres of precipitation were enough to bring the metropolis of millions to a grinding halt. There were electrocution-related deaths, roads were submerged and therefore impassable, while there was no electricity for hours in many city areas.

Perhaps in some other country there would be outrage over such a sad state of affairs in a nation’s commercial capital. But in Karachi, it’s business as usual. As expected, the city’s political players were busy slinging mud at each other, rather than coming up with solid ways to end this torturous yearly punishment meted out to Karachi’s citizens.

Flooded roads, power outages and traffic jams: Heavy rain wreaks havoc in Karachi

However, the Sindh government’s response was particularly insensitive, considering that the PPP-led provincial administration has been micromanaging Karachi and other urban areas of Sindh by taking over nearly all municipal functions.

Local Government Minister Nasir Shah first tried to attribute the chaos to a “natural calamity”, while adding that things “could have been worse”. Moreover, the minister had the gall to say opponents of the PPP were uploading “old” pictures and videos to malign all the wonderful work the government had done. Surely, Mr Shah must be talking about a different city, for Karachi over the last few days has resembled a settlement caught in the gushing waters of a biblical flood, with no government response worth the name.

While it is true that the PPP has chipped away at all local government powers thanks to its numbers in the Sindh Assembly, it alone is not the only party to blame. The MQM, which ruled Karachi with an iron fist for decades, also did little other than make superficial moves towards giving this city a modern infrastructure, including a working drainage system.

Ironically, save for the Musharraf-era local government system, Karachi has been neglected by the PPP, which doesn’t have a major vote bank here, as well as the MQM, which has made loud noises about the rights of Karachi, but has done little to translate rhetoric into deliverable policy. Even the PTI, which won the majority of the city’s National Assembly seats, has done nothing for the metropolis.

What Karachi needs is an overhaul of its decaying infrastructure and effective local government that helps protect it from disaster. Will any of the political players that milk this city step forward and do what is needed?

Published in Dawn, July 29th, 2020