Sunday, July 21, 2019

The following are major issues that the people of Karachi and other cities in Sindh Province seek to change.

Unfair census, disenfranchisement and gerrymandering

Many independent sources rank Karachi as the second most populated city in the world, but the authorities have always shown its population as less than half through systematic rigging in every census. This blatant injustice has left Sindh’s urban areas, of which Karachi is part, heavily disenfranchised. On the other hand, this injustice has unfairly benefited the rural population — which contributes only 5 percent taxes to the provincial exchequer — to have a fake majority in the provincial assembly.

This gerrymandering with the population figures of Karachi and Hyderabad, the Mohajir-majority second largest city of Sindh Province, continues to date. Even the last census figures showed Karachi’s population less than half of the actual numbers. Both the Pakistan Army and the province’s ruling Pakistan Peoples’ Party (PPP) have colluded for decades to deprive people of Karachi and other urban areas from having accurate representation in the national and the provincial legislative bodies.

Quota system

In Sindh Province, around 65 percent of the population lives in its urban areas, but the government of Pakistan has allocated for the urban areas only 40 percent representation in provincial government jobs and educational institutions. The urban population is even deprived of this unjust 40 percent quota, for the province’s rural-dominated government prefers to recruit candidates from the rural areas on fake urban domiciles. This practice has resulted in widespread unemployment and frustration among the educated urban youth.

Non-local policing

One would struggle to find even a single person from Karachi in the Karachi Police or the Paramilitary Rangers that are primarily responsible for maintaining law and order in Karachi. These non-local law enforcers treat Karachiites as people of an “occupied territory”: extrajudicial executions in fake encounters are frequent as are enforced disappearances. Law enforcement agencies have killed over 25,000 civilians in “police encounters” in Karachi alone since 1992.

Land-grabbing and illegal slums

Illegal slums with unfettered access to illegal electricity and water connections are thriving in Karachi, and the city’s non-local security agencies show no interest in stopping these open violations of the law.

The Pakistan Military, which according to a report presented in Pakistani Senate runs at least 52 commercial corporations, is the biggest real estate developer in Karachi. While Karachi’s taxpayer residents are suffering from water and power shortages, the military-run housing schemes enjoy an abundant supply of water, power, and other utilities. According to media reports, Karachi’s less-than-35-percent land is under the control of the city-elected municipal corporation.

A powerless city municipal corporation

The 18th Amendment in the Pakistani 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 this constitutional obligation and has usurped all powers that constitutionally belong to Karachi’s municipal government. The city’s elected mayor does not have control over the city’s trash management. As a result, Karachi has to beg the racist provincial government for even its basic needs.

Nonexistent central commute system

Karachi is the only major cosmopolitan city in the world that does not have a central commute system. While residents of other cities around the world have access to the state-of-the-art metro trains and eco-friendly green buses, millions of commuters in Karachi have to depend on old, smoke-spewing buses and other modes of transportation for the daily commute.

Religious radicalization

Religious seminaries (madrassahs) in Karachi have emerged at an alarming pace in recent years, mostly in the city’s illegal slums. Clerics at these seminaries, whose majority hails from other provinces and lacks the ability and skills to impart the conventional education, mostly teach their poor, young students a twisted version of Islam that is as far from its real message as possible. While the law enforcement agencies in Karachi undertake every effort to keep a close check on the city’s secular Mohajir leadership, they seem content with what these hate-spewing clerics teach at these madrassahs. Mohajirs believe that this systematic radicalization is part of the Pakistani military establishment’s plan to change the Western-friendly, sophisticated and secular face of Karachi.

Illegal hydrants

“Water-tanker mafia” is one of many powerful criminal mafias openly operating in Karachi, costing Karachi’s residents billions every year. The operatives of this mafia steal Karachi’s scarce water from main supply lines in broad daylight and sell it through tankers at an extortionate price. Most city residents are convinced that this illegal operation has the support of powerful officials within the city’s non-local law enforcement agencies who have besieged every corner of the city for the last many years.

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