CHAIRING a meeting to discuss the Karachi Transformation Plan, a scheme envisioned by the federal government to pump Rs1.1tr into Pakistan’s biggest yet most neglected city, Prime Minister Imran Khan on Thursday announced that over 100 projects had been planned for the Sindh capital. Along with the prime minister, the army chief and several federal ministers were in attendance. Moreover, Mr Khan was informed that 6,000 apartments were being built in the sprawling metropolis, and that anti-encroachment operations in Karachi would not go ahead unless alternative accommodation was arranged for the affected people. While these promises — especially of the 100 projects — are no doubt well-intentioned, the people of Karachi, rightly jaded after years, nay decades, of similar assurances that never saw the light of day, will believe it when they see it. The massive induction of funds was announced in September after an outcry in the city following the complete collapse of the civic infrastructure in the wake of August’s torrential rains. The initial announcement was dogged by controversy, as the centre and Sindh government sparred over who would pay for the plan and who would oversee it. As of now, Karachiites have yet to see anything concrete where the plan is concerned, apart from a raft of promises that the city’s infrastructure will be fixed under the scheme.

Thanks mainly to the Sindh government’s accumulation of nearly all civic powers and the resultant emaciation of the province’s local bodies, as well as the centre’s lack of interest, Karachi today is in a shambles. While on the national scale there is grand talk of gleaming motorways, the city has to make do with potholed roads. Other urban centres have seen the launches of modern metro buses and trains, but Karachi’s people travel in rickety ‘Qingqi’ rickshaws. As for the recently ‘reborn’ KCR, it has miles to go before it can play a meaningful role in resolving the city’s transport problems. Encroachments and lack of potable water and proper drainage are other major issues affecting Pakistan’s business capital. If the federal government is serious about resolving these multiple issues, it must, along with the Sindh administration, deliver a workable plan that can rehabilitate and develop Karachi as a 21st-century city. Moreover, all plans will come to naught unless there is a functioning municipal government to look after Karachi, one that is answerable to its residents. This is something the PPP-led Sindh government must reflect on.

Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2020

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