May Issue 2005

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 18 years ago

Living in Karachi today is nothing short of a nightmare. What was once a liveable, dynamic port city is now falling apart. Civic amenities are non-existent. Rundown roads, potholes, overflowing gutters, mounds of refuse, ugly highrises, electricity breakdowns, water shortages and unruly traffic characterise Pakistan’s economic lifeline. And one is not talking of its backwaters, but the elite Clifton area.

Adding to the city’s woes is the Clifton underpass project that is expected to ease the flow of traffic, but which is currently causing major chaos. Even as it is being constructed, doubts are being expressed about the soundness of its layout . The major stakeholders are professing to have had little input in the approved design, and let on that it may be altered in order to remove the flaws. Meanwhile, the Clifton area, with footpaths and service lanes turned into mounds of dirt, looks like a battle-zone as other utilities like PTCL, Sui Gas and cable companies have also joined the digging frenzy. They have been asked to locate and realign their networks in order to steer clear of the underpass.

And that is proving to be a herculean task because, believe it or not, this city apparently does not have a master plan to show which service goes where. Where are all those architects and town planners who go on free junkets to Washington DC, ostensibly for World Bank courses on town planning and development? What is their input in a city which contributes around 60 per cent by way of taxes to the country’s exchequer?

Karachi is expanding every which way — six schools in one lane in a residential area with no parking lots, four mosques within a radius of one mile, half a dozen shopping malls within walking distance of each other and more in the pipeline.Only recently two hospitals in Clifton have been sold off at a whopping price, and at least in one instance the hospital is being pulled down to make way for a shopping plaza.

And what are the city fathers doing?

Here’s what: an ex-army officer heading a civic agency, wanting his term extended by another two years, was told by Karachi’s extortionist administrators that he’d have to cough up a crore rupees monthly.

“Where from?” he wanted to know.

“Okay all the illegal high rises at a price,” he was told.

Need one say more!

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