Sunday, July 21, 2019

It may sound like a famous coffee commercial to many Americans, but Pakistan indeed runs on taxes paid by its largest city, Karachi.

Every government, civilian or military, however, has severely neglected even the basic needs of this great city. For decades, the city’s youth have been denied government jobs and admissions in government-owned professional educational institutions under the pretext of a highly unjust quota system. People of urban Sindh are also not accepted in local police and the country’s armed forces. This blatant injustice has resulted in widespread unemployment and poverty in urban Sindh.

In the absence of any plan to remedy the situation, the murderous outfit ISIS and Pakistan’s jihadist groups are likely to take advantage of this situation by luring these desperate youths into their deadly trap. The creation of a secular Greater Karachi can effectively thwart the march of extremist forces in South Asia.

Karachi is Pakistan’s largest city and is the capital of Sindh Province; it lies on Pakistan’s southern coast, on the Arabian Sea just northwest of the Indus River Delta. Karachi also happens to be Pakistan’s main port-city and its chief economic center. Even though Pakistani authorities have wiped off nearly half of its population in the last census figures, most independent organizations admit that Karachi has exceeded 30 million.

It will not be an overstatement to say that it is the taxes paid by Karachi that run Pakistan and Sindh Province, for it pays over 65 percent revenue to Pakistan’s national treasury and around 95 percent to the treasury of Sindh province. Despite Karachi’s massive contribution towards Pakistan’s economy, this magnificent city has been ignored by every successive government in Pakistan, both civilian and military.

Karachi is endowed with a vast young and highly educated population. Successive Pakistani governments, however, have done nothing to harness this young talent. Instead, they have used every measure at their disposal to deny them professional education, employment, and other opportunities to grow. These young Mohajirs are the descendants of those who had created and led the movement for Pakistan’s creation. However, Pakistan’s Punjabi-dominated civilian and military leadership, which itself played no role whatsoever in Pakistan’s establishment, has always treated them with high suspicion. Both civilian and military governments have answered Karachi’s Mohajir population’s demand for justice and equality with allegations of treason and the use of brutal state force, including inhuman torture in custody and extrajudicial killings in fake police encounters. Over 25,000 Mohajirs have been killed extrajudicially since 1992, whereas hundreds have become the target of “enforced or involuntary disappearance.”

Karachi’s woes are not a secret: The World Bank in one of its recent reports has highlighted the sorry state of affairs in Karachi and has recommended spending $10 billion every year to address the fundamental civic problems in Karachi. The rural-dominated Sindh Government, which has come into power through proven rigging in census figures and gerrymandering, has refused to honor not just the World Bank’s recommendations, but also the country’s constitution.

The Article 140A of the 18th Amendment into Pakistan’s Constitution clearly states: Each Province shall, by law, establish a local government system and devolve political, administrative and financial responsibility and authority to the elected representatives of the local governments.

The rural-dominated Government of Sindh, unfortunately, has unashamedly refused to comply with its constitutional obligation and has usurped all powers that constitutionally belong to Karachi’s municipal government. The city’s elected mayor doesn’t have control over the city’s trash management. As a result, Karachi has to beg the racist provincial government for even its basic needs.

In an environment where pro-jihadist forces are on the rise and the murderous outfit ISIS has vowed to make Pakistan its next bastion of power following its defeat in Syria, it is highly perilous to continue to ignore the plight of millions of Mohajirs, young and old, as the radical religious extremists are actively using social media and other resources to prey on these hopeless masses and exploit their sheer frustrations, poverty, and hopelessness.

Karachi is a great city; it is Pakistan’s most secular city that has always stood against the anti-Western religious extremists. Karachi’s secular citizens fear that the nexus of the country’s security establishment and the corrupt, feudal lords-dominated PPP is not just ruining Karachi financially and politically; it is also attempting to turn Karachi into a safe haven for religious militants.

This situation calls for urgent action. The world is still battling with radical forces in Afghanistan, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, and Iraq, and the forces of darkness would love to strike yet another blow to the world peace and harmony. The solution to resolve Karachi’s decades-old civic issues and preventing this sensitive region from falling into the hands of religious extremists is to establish an autonomous Greater Karachi within geographical boundaries of Pakistan. It is not an alien idea, for it will be an autonomous administrative unit within Pakistan’s geographical boundaries, similar to the Kurdish region in Iraq that the United States helped establish. Just like secular Kurdish, Karachi will also be critical in stopping the march of radical forces in South Asia.

The Voice of Karachi, which has presented this plan, is a U.S.-based advocacy group that is committed to raising global awareness about the plight of Pakistan’s largest and the world’s second most populous city, Karachi.

The #GreaterKarachi will guarantee, through a regional constitution, equal rights and access to opportunities for all its citizens, irrespective of their ethnicity, religion, and gender. The constitution will ensure an inclusive society where people of all races and beliefs will be treated equally. It will also provide peace and stability in the region. It will act as a bulwark against the forces of darkness, forces of extremism. Please help Karachi and its people for they are the faithful supporters of democracy and allies of humanity in a region where extremism, very often under the official patronage, is rising at an alarming rate.

The author is chairman of Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Voice of Karachi and South Asia Minorities Alliance Foundation.

“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Benjamin Franklin, “Memoirs Of The Life And Writings of Benjamin Franklin.”

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