Region

DHA Debacle

The record-breaking deluge exposed the fragility of the city’s civic infrastructure
and drew attention to the lack of political will to correct faults.

By Taha Kehar | October 2020

Plagued by a fractured command structure and divided political ownership, Karachi needs a cohesive, all-embracing strategy to tackle its infrastructural crisis. Over the last few decades, the country’s financial hub has hobbled under the weight of an erratic system of power and water supply, an unreliable public transport network, and a disorderly mechanism for waste disposal. In the absence of political incentive and an empowered local government, any attempt to rectify the challenges faced by citizens remain futile.

However, it would be wrong to assume that the civic needs of specific neighborhoods can be addressed in a vacuum. The unprecedented rains that crippled life in Karachi on August 27, 2020 are a glaring testament to this belief.

The record-breaking deluge exposed the fragility of the city’s civic infrastructure and drew attention to the lack of political will to correct faults. Although various localities were adversely impacted by the downpour, the upscale neighborhoods of Clifton and the Defence Housing Authority (DHA) become the nucleus of a longstanding debate over civic apathy. Disgruntled by prolonged power cuts, property damage and the ineffectiveness of the storm drainage system, many residents participated in a series of protests against the DHA and the Cantonment Board Clifton (CBC). For the very first time, the well-heeled elite were spotted holding placards and shouting slogans to demand accountability from an institution that had failed to meet their expectations.

The first protest was held outside the office of the CBC – which provides municipal cover to DHA’s eight phases, various parts of Clifton and a few slum areas. While the protest remained peaceful, it was apparent that many protesters had no previous experience in dealing with civic issues in their residential area. Skeptics on social media criticized the sheer magnitude of elitism and tone-deaf privilege among some participants at the protest. In addition, a large number of demonstrators didn’t know the name of the chief executive officer of the CBC and instead mistakenly addressed their pleas to the Citizen Police Liaison Committee (CPLC) head. Their ignorance can be attributed to several decades of evading confrontations with the relevant authorities and opting for informal mechanisms of addressing water and electricity shortages.

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