When it rains it pours. The proverb fits the recent downpour in Karachi. For the city dwellers, the devastation caused by heavy rain is not a one-time occurrence. However, this time, the monsoon downpour broke the city’s 90-year record, making August 2020 the wettest month since 1931. In place of bringing relief to the otherwise rain-deprived people, quite expectedly, the all-time high monsoon spell turned into urban flooding, thus bringing record-breaking misery to the city in the form of human casualties, infrastructure damages, material losses, electricity failures and even displacement of tens of thousands of people. Though the situation was not different in other parts of Sindh, Karachi made headlines because it is the provincial capital, Pakistan’s largest city and also its economic, financial and transport hub. Even before the monsoon season kicked off, the concerned provincial and civic authorities were alerted in time by the Met Office about the possibility of urban flooding across the city.
Unfortunately, that was the same period when Wasim Akhtar, the Karachi City Mayor, was going through his last days in office and the Sindh government, led by Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), was heavily engaged in a slew of political engineering moves to secure its unlikely lead in the forthcoming local bodies elections in Karachi. For this, the entire machinery of the Sindh government seemed to resort to well-calculated but dicey tactics that are primarily targeted at depriving the city’s majority population of its decisive electoral strength as well as manipulating the entire electoral system only in the PPP’s favour. It is not a matter of coincidence that when a major part of the city was inundated in the wake of heavy monsoon rains, the Sindh government gifted the people of Karachi with the Keamari District, the city’s seventh district which has overtly been crafted along ethnic lines to strengthen the PPP’s voter base. At a critical time when the rain relief efforts, coupled with infrastructure rehabilitation initiatives, should have been the Sindh government’s top priority, planning is now well underway to change the names of the
remaining districts of Karachi. These cosmetic measures have nothing to do with the welfare of the country’s most neglected city. It truly shows how sincere is the PPP’s leadership with Karachi, since the PPP treats the urban areas of Sindh, particularly Karachi, as if it is merely a colony of Sindh. Caused by torrential rains and flooding, to be very honest, the recent devastation in Karachi owes less to the current administrative failures and much to the long-drawn injustice the city has been subjected to for ages. Chronologically, Karachi’s disfranchisement story dates back to the black day when it was deprived of the country’s capital status, followed by a well-orchestrated resettlement of the people from other provinces, imposition of the quota system and the subsequent rise of the erstwhile MQM, which, through its violent politics, simply wasted almost three decades of the city. Karachi’s continuing saga touched it peak a few years back when the Sindh government usurped the local government’s powers on the pretext of the 18th Amendment, turning the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation into a toothless civic institution. Now the city of Karachi, divided into well-resourced cantonment boards and much-deprived city districts, has simply been reduced to a governance disaster as well as a collective failure of the federal, provincial and civic administrative bodies.
Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah believes that a sum of $10 billion is required to develop and revamp Karachi along modern lines. This is a blatant misrepresentation of facts since the city first needs ownership, an unbiased leadership, a never-dying commitment as well as a true representation of its people. Before this, every other effort would go in vain. In place of a colonial mindset, the Sindh government needs to rise to the occasion and understand the realities. Machiavellian politics can serve their purpose for a short time but it is only a consistent display of good governance that can help win the people’s hearts. Karachi is crumbling and the people of the city are justified in feeling that they are now nothing more than the orphans of the state. The monsoon season is reportedly over but has only returned to wreak more havoc and devastation and to destroy Karachi for good. And last but not the least, knowing the fact that rainwater seeped every nook and corner of the city during the recent monsoon spell, the concerned authorities, elected parliamentarians as well as all relevant agencies and departments, could have done some justice if they had used a palmful of water, or merely chullu bhar pani, to drown in!