THOUGH not official yet, census numbers are already controversial, especially with respect to the population of Karachi, the largest city which also happens to be the commercial, financial and industrial capital of the country.
What is the fault of millions of people of Karachi whose numbers would stand diminished and the subsequent financial allocations that would go down on the basis of flawed data? The much-trumpeted digital census has been a victim of the alleged machinations of influential and powerful political and bureaucratic elite and other related institutional mafias whose selfish and territorial interests would be greatly compromised if Karachi’s realistic population growth is highlighted.
It is not the first time that the nearly 25 million hapless people of Karachi are facing injustice. The pattern has been there all along in the chequered history of this forsaken city.
It all started after the death of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan when One Unit was imposed, and Karachi was deprived of the status that it had enjoyed thus far.
An entirely new capital was planned close to the Margalla Hills alongside Rawalpindi to facilitate the functioning and working of our powerful masters.
It was a capital which interestingly remained without an airport, a railway station and a central bus terminal for decades. It was done with amazing haste. What was that haste all about?
As if all this was not enough in terms of ignoring Karachi, terror along ethnic and linguistic lines started visiting the city in the beginning of the 1980s. It was unleashed at such a massive scale that the city, which was once the transit point between East and West, has still not been able to recover. The political environment stands polluted. The social fabric stands tattered.
Furthermore, the locals continue to be deprived of proper employment opportunities as most high-level public-sector jobs have been handed over to people from other provinces. A comprehensive survey should be undertaken by relevant institutions, like, say, the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.
This is not to suggest that people of other provinces are not professionals or are without talent and competence, but it defies logic that locals are not accorded first preference, especially considering the fact that two largest seaports of Pakistan and an assortment of industrial setups are located here.
It would be a travesty of justice if the actual population data of Karachi is suppressed, and the city and its inhabitants are victimised on the basis of fudged and flawed numbers. All political parties should actively raise their voice to pre-empt such an outcome.
Umar M. Makhdumi
Published in Dawn, June 7th, 2023