KARACHI: Karachi Administrator Iftikhar Ali Shallwani has said that he hopes to see a modern tram line with its first station, or point, at the Street Library near Metropole.
He was giving a talk on ‘Karachi, an epitome of resilience’, organised by the English Speaking Union of Pakistan (ESUP) at a local hotel here on Friday.
He also spoke at length about the other projects under way in Karachi such as the Karachi Circular Railway (KCR), the Green Line bus service, the K-IV water supply project, solid waste management, etc.
He said the trams he wanted to see running in the city would have a different route from the Green Line but they would be on the roads just like cars. He said that Turkey had offered assistance in launching the tram service in Karachi.
He said the proposed service would cover a nine-kilometre-long route from Metropole to PIDC traffic intersection to I.I. Chundrigar Road, Tower via Shaheen Complex.
Administrator Shallwani says the resilience of a city depends on its own people
14 KCR stations ready
About the KCR, he said that 14 stations were ready though they would not be able to loop the entire city because closing the old crossings would create traffic chaos, thus they would have overhead passes.
For the Green Line, he said that it would be followed by the Red Line and Yellow Line and further networks, too.
“Here when we have our servants throw out the garbage, we don’t take the trouble to check whether they are dumping it on the footpath or in the storm-water drains,” he said.
“The resilience to do things comes from within,” said Mr Shallwani. “If you look back at the history of cities, you’ll learn about cities such as Troy, Constantinople, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, cities that rebuild themselves after complete destruction,” he said.
He said that recently when he ordered the cleaning of Frere Hall, he came upon some broken windows. Upon asking, he was told that the windows had broken in a bomb blast 20 to 25 years ago. “And still they were not replaced during this while. In the span of time where entire cities rebuilt themselves, we couldn’t even repair a few broken windows,” he aired his surprise.
“Doing nothing is not an option. A city’s resilience depends on its own people. One is to go from reactive mode to proactive mode because that is how cities bounce back, despite limited resources,” he said.
“Even during our wars, I don’t recall Karachi ever [being] bombed or surrounded. We have not seen that kind of destruction. But we are so complacent. Our city has a bad track [record] of law and order. We see so many petty crimes here. I arrived in Karachi in 2015 and was advised to keep an extra mobile phone and some money to hand over to muggers,” he said.
‘Karachiites like to lament’
“People of Karachi like to lament about their city. But we should learn from the past, not live in our past. There are lot of people in Karachi who like to live in their past. But we also like to think about what to do tomorrow because it gives us hope, optimism. Resilience also comes from there,” he pointed out.
“I met officers in the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation who had been working there for 30 years. I asked them to share a cherished memory during service and they had none. Among those who had worked there for 16 to 17 years, I found one who said that the highlight of his career was when he remodelled his own office,” he laughed.
He added that in the two years that he served as commissioner of Karachi, he and his team decorated the city twice for the Pakistan Super League (PSL) in 2019 and 2020.
“We could do it because we took ownership of the city. I was present at the opening of the PSL in 2019 in Dubai but even that city could not match the ambiance and festivity of PSL in Karachi,” he said. “Sadly, we don’t do anything until we are ordered to do it on paper.”
“When I was planning a Karachi marathon in 2019, people asked me why was I even taking the trouble when I was not told to do so by the chief minister or governor? But the marathon has been a great experience. Then only a week before the event I was told that if God forbid there is any mishap such as a terrorist attack, I would be responsible for the lives of the people there. I personally visited the area with my team and cleared it,” he said.
“When you do new things, you find lots of obstacles in your way. But we held our second marathon in January 2020. It was supposed to be a local event but it turned into a national and international event with so many foreigners also taking part in it,” he said, coming to the Street Libraries he built in Karachi.
Street libraries in city
Talking about the first street library that he built, he said that there was a footpath around Hotel Metropole which suddenly ‘vanished’ after Village Restaurant with a 12-foot-high wall there.
“I turned into a patwari to have the wall demolished to make space for a footpath there. I was also slapped with a contempt of court [notice] as the restaurant started rebuilding the wall for which they also got a stay order. People thought that maybe I wanted the place to construct a plaza or something but I explained what I had in mind and I made it happen after all,” he said.
ESUP president Aziz Memon and secretary general Majyd Aziz also spoke.
Published in Dawn, October 24th, 2020