Glorious Past Marred by Corruption
Karachi, the industrial and business hub of Pakistan, welcomed all into its harmonious and magnanimous fold. It led to a trading post of 400,000 exploding into a megalopolis of nearly 300 million people. Catering for 70 percent of national revenue, the city of Karachi merited able, honest, and sagacious governance.
Not to be, corruption, crime, and ethnicity ensured that Karachi, the city that was, regressed into the potted, rutted, and totally gutted entity that it is. The Global Liveability Index 2022 ranks Karachi as the fifth least livable city in the world. Dedicated apolitical individuals vying for the city’s welfare were murdered ruthlessly. Hakeem Saeed sahib’s alleged murderers belonged to the MQM.
Four ANP local office bearers were awarded double life sentences for the murder of Ms Perween Rahman, a dedicated social activist. An MQM member was hanged for MD KESC Mr Shahid Hamid’s murder. Even ordinary citizens were not spared. MQM activists were sentenced for the horrendous Baldia Factory arson that saw 260 bread earners burnt to cinders. The infamous People’s Amn Committee, known for murders and drug-running, anointed Lyari’s electoral candidates; it was a PPP protégé.
MQM’s Sinful Rule
When the Karachi operation mercifully did start in September 2013, intelligence agencies rounded up 5,882 criminals. 3235 were closely associated with political parties. 913 were involved in anti-state activities, whereas 1,341 were working for proscribed outfits.
Security officials said 1,700 of these hardcore criminals, involved in murders and other criminal activities, were MQM activists, whereas 1,563 were associated with PPP and ANP. These parties always denied militant/criminal elements within their folds. However, criminal culpability at the highest levels lays bare as the apprehended divulged political affiliations and exposed the godfathers patronizing their sordid crimes.
A classified US cable dated 22 April 2009 captioned “The Gangs of Karachi” read: “MQM has 10000 active armed members and as many as 25000 armed fighters in reserve. This is compared to the city’s 33000 police officers. The party operates through Sector Commanders, who take their orders directly from the party leader who lives in exile in the UK. MQM’s detractors claim these armed men are involved in extortion, assassinating political rivals, shootings at campaign rallies and the murder of people from other ethnic communities. In the past eight years alone, MQM was issued over a million arms licenses”.
The cable further reads: “With PPP in control of the provincial government and having an influential member in place as the Home Minister, a large number of weapons permits are currently being issued to PPP workers. A police official recently said, given the volume of weapons permits being issued to PPP members, the party will soon be as well-armed as MQM”.
Patronized crime and mega-corruption allegations have remained synonymous with the abysmal governance of Sindh. Transparency International reported an astounding 94 billion dollars lost to corruption during PPP’s 2014-19 years. An indicator of this rapacious lot was Liaquat Qaimkhani, Karachi’s DG of Parks and Horticulture.
Arrested by NAB, he was found to have set up 71 ghost parks with fake companies to maintain them. A raid at his palatial home, boasting his elaborate 2-marla bathroom, yielded cash and items worth over 10 billion rupees, 8 luxury vehicles, and a cache of automatic weapons. Apart from remaining Advisor to MQM Mayor Waseem Akhtar, Qaimkhani was patronized by individuals from different political parties.
Devastating the City of Lights
A multitude of these rags to ill-gotten riches stories have enabled the destruction of Karachi. Every single aspect of this city is a goldmine staked by politically patronized mafias. As residents yearn for water, the illegal tanker mafia pockets 55 billion rupees annually.
8 billion cubic feet of sand and gravel are removed illegally each year from the city waterbeds. A 2019 WWF report says Karachi produces 475 million gallons of wastewater daily which ends up in the sea. Poisonous chemicals from Karachi’s many factories seep daily into water supply lines.
Bloomberg cites a 2019 study that found Karachi to have the worst public transport system in the world; it is also the most dangerous. Billions are made by conniving officials and their political masters; the criminal travesties affect millions of lives adversely.
Karachi’s 58 major stormwater drains and the smaller 600 feeding them have been encroached upon by the politically patronized land mafia. This includes over 60000 illegal houses and many commercial blocks on this land. This is the audacious impunity that has been the governance of Karachi.
Even DHA and KPT jumped into the fray with the former setting up the DHA Golf Club and the latter the KPT Housing Scheme in Chinna Creek backwaters. These were set up at the cost of the crucial eco-enabling mangrove swamps. This is apart from DHA reclaiming land to extend its domain into the sea. The recent deluge saw the devastation of roads in Karachi yet again.
Experts claim that 70 percent of bike and rickshaw riders are suffering from vertebral damage. Many expecting women have lost their pregnancies or given premature birth. Merely another opportunity for the unscrupulous, billions in road repairs shall be pocketed, as is from the annual “cleaning” of drains. For want of an effective rainwater drainage mechanism, the road patchwork shall wash away with the slightest rain as the rapacious cycle goes on.
The Parallels Between Karachi & Lagos
Nigeria, gaining independence in 1960, is one of the world’s largest oil exporters. Its 2011-2020 oil and gas revenue stood at 394 billion dollars. An October 10, 2019 article in The Economist revealed that since its independence, 600 billion dollars have been stolen from Nigeria. This has resulted in 70 million Nigerians living on less than a dollar a day.
Lagos, the Karachi-like commercial hub of Nigeria, is ranked the least livable city in the world. In an eerie similarity, the repeated cycle bereft of any safety measures sees a corruption-prone Nigeria ravaged by floods leaving 500 people dead with 1.4 million displaced. The world at large has moved on with the majority having implemented and accepted standards of civility and governance.
Tragically, our political landscape remains dominated by primitive greed with constant jousting for pillaging rights. A proven paradigm, rule of law, and wealth retention not creation is the key to prosperity. This demands honest and prudent leadership. It remains the only and most crucial imperative towards the resurgence of Karachi and a vibrant Pakistan.
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