August issue 2006

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 14 years ago

Even as TV cameras zoomed images of houses submerged in rainwater, families huddled on charpoys to escape the flooding, cars being pulled out of ditches, live wires fallen on pavements, gutters overflowing and people wading through knee-deep water, the nazim of Karachi maintained that everything was under control.

Frankly speaking, nothing was: 30 plus people had drowned or died of electrocution, 70 per cent of Karachi was drowned in darkness, in some instances for 72 hours, and some areas were without water for days on end, due to the electricity breakdowns.

Presenting the most sorry spectacle was “the pride” of Karachi, the recently opened Karachi underpass — literally come to a sorry pass, as it overflowed with water, bringing the Clifton traffic to a halt. Jokes were doing the rounds of converting it into a public swimming pool, or better still, a waterway, complete with gondolas et al.

Accusations flew back and forth between the nazim and the Karachi Port Trust — the nazim blamed the KPT for overlooking the structural defects in the underpass design, and the KPT blamed the nazim for the clogged sewerage lines which, in turn, were flooding the roads and the underpass.

Whoever comes out looking guilty at the end of the day need not worry, for no heads will roll.

The men in power treat corruption — and indulge in it — as a way of life. Equally big, if not bigger scams have come to light in the last year or so — the sugar and cement shortages, the sale of the steel mill for a pittance and, more recently, the stock exchange crash — all involving some top guns of the country. And every single crook has gotten away, scot-free. Unfortunately, the dust on their misdemeanours settles fast, and a new scandal or story breaks…

The latest story grabbing the headlines is the battle royale for power between the MQM and the Sindh chief minister, which is proving to be the bane of Karachi — a city in a shambles, despite being the biggest contributor to the country’s tax pool. It’s dying, bit by bit, day by day, while those sitting in Islamabad work out the permutations and combinations for the next Sindh government in the coming 2007 elections.

Will Sindh ever be allowed to decide who should rule Sindh?

Rehana Hakim is one of the core team of journalists that helped start Newsline. She has been the editor-in-chief since 1996.