September Issue 2003

By | Editorial | Opinion | Published 21 years ago

If the Tasman Spirit disaster had taken place in any other civilised country of the world, a few heads would have rolled and a massive clean-up operation launched.

Not so in Pakistan. Instead, the heads that should’ve rolled for their failure to contain the oil spill, and their subsequent attempts to cover up their negligence, were briefing the President on what is turning out to be an ecological nightmare that threatens to destroy Karachi’s coastal and marine life. Not to mention the health of its 14 million inhabitants. Meanwhile, KPT workers were advised “not to open their mouth to the press,” and two were even suspended on the same charges. The President flew back to Islamabad — satisfied, it appears, with both, their explanations and the pre-historic clean-up attempts. And life went on as usual for the hapless citizens of Karachi.

For a city that contributes around 70 per cent of the government’s total revenue, Karachi has been treated like a stepchild and left at the mercy of administrators who seem to have little interest in its welfare or its future.

The erstwhile capital has little to show for itself except potholes that go by the name of roads, overflowing gutters, major electricity breakdowns, water shortages — and, above all, murderers, rapists and dacoits, who have held the city hostage for several months now.

Six people are gunned down in a day, two from a party in the ruling coalition, and the killers vanish into thin air.

Five brothers are mowed down with bullets on their way home from work and another two doctors are murdered in cold blood but the administration gropes in the dark. Three gangrapes are reported within a fortnight and the culprits get away scot free. A hundred plus vehicles are snatched every week and the rangers and police fail to nab the thieves.

Exactly who is in charge here? Do we have a government in place or not? If so, precisely what is its function, other than gracing public functions to get some extra mileage in the press. Shouldn’t Islamabad’s power-brokers, who picked the ‘creme de la creme’ of Sindh that presides over our destinies, be taking the ‘chosen ones’ to task for Karachi’s descent into lawlessness?

Every few weeks the honourable prime minister or president fly into Karachi to grace us with their weighty presence, and the city comes alive with the sound of wailing sirens — and non-stop chatter.

Everyone, from the governor to the chief minister, his cabinet, the Nazim, the IG police, the rangers’ chief and the Sindh Corps commander, swing into action. Not to be missed are expressions of earnestness and undue concern on everybody’s faces. Karachi and its problems are discussed adnauseam Everyone has his say; businessmen, lawyers, and civil society representatives are thrown in for good measure.

At the end of the day, the media, especially the cable networks, are cordially invited to partake of the pearls of wisdom that have been dropped to restore Karachi to its old glory as a hub of economic activity. Financial packages are announced (where does all the money go?) and the PM/President return to their safe havens in the citadel of power- and Karachi is forgotten till the next trip round.

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