Crumbling Karachi

The extent of deprivation of Karachi can be judged from the fact that its inhabitants are not fully counted in the population census and thus remain deprived of their legitimate share in the provincial revenue along with their just representation both in Provincial and National Assemblies.

By S.R.H. Hashmi | September 2023

From water scarcity to encroachments, sanitation issues to inadequate transport infrastructure, dismal primary education and health services in the government sector, security, or any problem you may visualize, you will find its extreme presence in Karachi. And that is despite the city being the birthplace of the founder of Pakistan and the one-time capital of the country, declared so by the Quaid himself, in addition to being a populous city that welcomes and hosts people of all ethnicities and provinces. Also, being the country’s main port and an industrial and commercial hub, it maximizes federal and provincial revenue. And yet, from the colossal sum it raises, it is not given back even a small fraction to enable it to provide its residents with the bare minimum level of civic services. And even all this still doesn’t tell the whole story of the city’s and its residents’ deprivation.

The Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) takes great pride in passing the 18th Amendment to the Constitution, which devolved substantial powers and the related financial resources from the federation to the provinces. However, the 18th Amendment also mandated third-tier local governments. But the PPP’s provincial government ignored this provision and dismantled even the local government system provided by General Pervez Musharraf’s government. Under pressure, the Sindh government occasionally introduces some rudimentary system of local government for show only, but with all administrative powers and financial resources firmly controlled by the provincial government and not the elected LG officials.

The extent of deprivation of the city can be judged from the fact that its inhabitants are not even considered fit to be counted fully in the population census and thus remain deprived of their legitimate share in the provincial revenue and the parliamentary seats. Of course, gerrymandering and other manipulations come on top of it. All this enables the deeply entrenched PPP to control the province with the much-inflated number of parliamentary seats. Sadly, even the latest population census, especially conducted before the mandated 10-year period, has only partially redressed this great injustice.

As we all know, Asif Zardari made Shehbaz Sharif the prime minister. As such, it was now Shehbaz’s turn to return the favour. Meanwhile, as an ally of the PTI government, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) had extracted a promise from the PTI to hold the population census before the mandatory period of ten years and to base 2023 elections on the latest population figure of Karachi. Subsequently, due to its pivotal role in the no-confidence motion and subsequent formation of the PDM government, the MQM compelled Shehbaz Sharif to conduct the census, which he did, but only after delaying it as much as possible. And how unsatisfactory the census plan and its execution were can be judged from the fact that the census, which was to be completed in one month starting March 1, had to be extended five times until May 15, with the MQM and the Jamaat-e-Islami still complaining and pointing out inaccuracies as also the fact that Karachi population figure came nowhere near the widely-believed figure of 30 million to 35 million.

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