Karachi is a city that now looks like being bereft of hope. There could be many solutions to its countless smouldring problems but the will seems to be missing at the federal level.

By Justice (r) M. Shaiq Usmani | December 2019
Those of us who have seen the city of Karachi from the late fifties through the seventies are, to say the least, depressed to see its surroundings today. One can write pages after pages about what Karachi was and what it has become but it will be a pointless exercise. Briefly stated Karachi’s woes began when Ayub Khan, out of sheer hubris and dislike for Karachi and its, what he regarded as, pusillanimous culture moved the Capital from here to the wilderness surrounding the then Garrison town of Rawalpindi.

Thus, by one stroke, Karachi became a part of Sindh and a ripe fruit fell into the lap of the Sindh Government, when those who have seen Karachi from the days of yore know that Karachi was never a Sindhi town at all. The language that was most spoken here in the early years of Pakistan was Gujrati, neither Urdu nor Sindhi, and the population was a mix of Bohris, Marwaris, Kutchis, Memons, Parsis, Baloch and of course the redoubtable Makranis who ruled the roost, a tall and tough people found wherever hard labour was required. Mohajirs, as they are known today, were never a identifiable unit and if Karachi had remained the Capital they were bound to have been absorbed in the local milieu in time like the Baloch before. By and large, it was a well-managed society and the Commissioner of Karachi lorded over the city and ran a tight ship.

The massive influx of population in later years from the Northern areas, not unlike the Americans moving west in the early years of American history in search of jobs, led to a change in the culture of Karachi and hence engendered resistance from the so-called Mohajirs who feared marginalization. Soon they found an advocate for their aspirations in the shape of a political party that came to be known as MQM. This party soon transformed into a violent party, more so because of turf wars as in the mean time the Sindhis who, after the transfer of the Capital to Islamabad, claimed ownership of Karachi without really becoming part of the Karachi ethos and began to assert themselves to boot. With time, the tussle grew and eventually due to the foolhardiness of the MQM leadership, it resulted in actual marginalization of the Mohajirs to prevent what ironically the MQM party was created for in the first place.

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The writer is a former Chief Justice of the Sindh High Court. He has been actively involved in human and women’s rights.

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Going Nowhere

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