Thursday, January 18, 2018

“No taxation without representation” was the rallying cry that united all Americans in the late 16th century against the British control of North America. The Founding Fathers of the USA had, for all the right reasons, argued that the British had no right to collect taxes from their North American colonies as people in those colonies had no representation in the British Parliament. They, the Founding Fathers, declared “taxation without representation as tyranny,” issued their Declaration of Independence, and demanded freedom from the British colonial control.

In today’s world, Karachi, Pakistan’s biggest city with a population of nearly 30 million, is facing the same injustices that the American colonists faced in the late 16th century. Pakistan runs on taxes collected from Karachi, yet Karachi is the most neglected metropolitan in Pakistan. It is almost impossible to find ethnic Mohajirs, its majority people, in the city administration and law enforcement agencies. Every year, hundreds of thousands of the city’s young students are refused admissions in their own city at the cost of Sindhi and Punjabi-speaking non-Karachiites.

Most independent global organizations agree that Karachi is the third most populated city in the world. Some highly respected organizations, including the free online encyclopedia Wikipedia, ranks Karachi as the second most populated city in the world — Wikipedia says Karachi’s population was 27 million in 2016. This city, without a doubt, is the engine that runs the Pakistan economy, but successive Pakistani governments, both military and civilian, have continued to ignore this great city. Illegal slums with illegal electricity and water connections are thriving in Karachi under the protection of non-local Army and police forces. Non-locals are being housed in these slums, and no taxes are collected from there. There is a mushroom growth of illegal religious seminaries (Madrassahs) in these areas where poor non-Urdu-speaking students are trained for Jihad, all under the watchful eyes of Pakistan’s law enforcers.

This is all being done to change the Western-friendly, sophisticated and secular face of Karachi. Until late 1940s, Karachi was a small coastal city located at the shores of the Arabian Sea. Its population was less than one hundred thousand. When Pakistan came into being in 1947, Pakistan’s Founding Father Muhammad Ali Jinnah chose Karachi as Pakistan’s capital city. Millions of Urdu-speaking Muslims from Hindu-majority provinces of India migrated to Pakistan and made Karachi their new home. These skilled immigrants soon turned Karachi into a thriving city with large industries, banks, insurance companies and a busy seaport.

Karachi’s prosperity wasn’t liked by Pakistan’s Punjabi-dominated Military Establishment, which soon started a vicious campaign to target Karachi. Soon after imposing Pakistan’s martial law, Pakistan’s first military dictator shifted the capital of Pakistan from Karachi to a newly established city, Islamabad, in Punjab. Offices of all major state organizations were relocated from Karachi to Punjab, leaving hundreds of thousands of Karachiites jobless. The people of Karachi, and the Urdu-speaking Mohajirs in particular, were selectively targeted and purged out of government jobs and law enforcement agencies.

Even though taxes generated from Karachi run Pakistan’s economy, you would struggle to find even a single person from Karachi in the Karachi Police or the Paramilitary Rangers that are responsible for the law and order in Karachi. These non-local law enforcers treat Karachiites as people of an “occupied territory.” Extrajudicial executions in fake encounters are common, as are enforced disappearances. Police and Rangers are known for extorting billions from Karachi’s citizens every year through coercion and intimidation. The illegal money-making tactic employed by the non-local law enforcement agencies include land-grabbing, kidnapping-for-ransom and selling Karachi’s scarce water.

Pakistan’s powerful, Punjabi-dominated military controls all the water hydrants in Karachi from where Karachi’s water is stolen and then sold illegally through water tankers. This trade alone earns the Pakistan Army billions every year from Karachi.

The Pakistan Army also is the biggest land-grabber in Karachi. It uses draconian measures to grab Karachi’s lucrative land, turns it into Defense Housing Authorities (DHAs), and then sells residential and commercial plots in these DHAs at extortionate rates. These DHAs are solely administered by the Army’s Cantonment Boards — where the city’s metropolitan corporation or any other local government have no control, though these DHAs unashamedly use Karachi’s scarce resources. According to some conservative estimates, around 35% of Karachi’s land is now under the Pakistan Army’s control.

The Sindhi-dominated provincial government of the Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) is also a fierce enemy of Karachi. It is on record that the Party’s founder and the former prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto (father of the late Benazir Bhutto) ordered the then-provincial Interior Secretary in the early 1970s to halve Karachi’s population in the official census figures so that Karachi’s representation in the provincial and federal parliament could be significantly reduced. This “gerrymandering” with the population figures of Karachi and Hyderabad — the Mohajir-majority, second-largest city of Sindh province — continues to date. Even in the last census, Karachi’s population was shown to be less than half of the actual numbers. Both the Pakistan Army and PPP have colluded for decades to deprive the people of Karachi and other urban areas from having true representation. Both the Army and PPP consider Karachi as a cash cow; they collect taxes from there, but spend less than peanuts on this city’s infrastructure and development.

Karachi is a great city. It is Pakistan’s most secular city and has always stood against the pro-Jihadist forces backed by the Pakistani Military Establishment. The Pakistani Military Establishment and the corrupt, feudal-lords-dominated PPP are not just looting Karachi; they are attempting to turn it into a safe haven for Jihadist elements. The world needs to come forward to save Karachi.

A #FreeKarachi will guarantee peace and stability in the region. It will act as a bulwark against the forces of darkness. Please help Karachi and its people — for they are the West’s true allies in the region!


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