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Glorious inglorious

Glorious inglorious

It was January of 1974 when I travelled to Karachi for the first time in my life, to appear before the Central Medical Board at PAF Base, Masroor. At that time, I was a first year student at Government College, Lahore. The journey from Lahore in an AC compartment of Pakistan Railways, was extremely exciting as I had just cleared my ISSB from Kohat and was in high spirit, looking forward to a dream of getting into GDP, come true! (Alas!)

Karachi was so welcoming that I still relish the fondest memories of my one week stay there. Lahore Lahore Ae, but Karachi was more cosmopolitan, in a real sense and the experience was something like that of a sixteen years old Alice in a wonderland!

Then, after graduating as an architect, I kept visiting Karachi frequently. Each visit contributed significantly to the treasure trove of pleasant memories.

But, my last visit to Karachi with my graduating son left me sad as I saw a different Karachi. All I could see and feel was —- neglect!

I took my son to the beach…….. he was not impressed.

I took him for a stroll along Zaibunnisa Street (former revered Elphinstone Street), we both were disappointed!

Something was amiss, just chaos.

The recent rains left all of us wondering as to what went wrong and where?

In 1864, the first telegraphic message was sent from India to England when a direct telegraph connection was laid between Karachi and London. In 1878, the city was connected to the rest of British India by rail.

On August 14, 1947, population of Karachi was 450,000.

By 1951 it’s population had crossed 1 million mark.

In 1959, the capital of Pakistan was shifted from Karachi to Islamabad and Karachi became the capital of Sind.

The expansion of Karachi has been exponential, as the population of Karachi in 2012 was more than 15,000,000 (compare that with 1899 population of 105,000). Today the city has grown more than 60 times its size in 1947, and city’s population continues to grow at 5% per annum.

Jinnah Terminal Airport handles 6 million passengers a year.

Karachi collects a significant 53.38% of the total collection of FBR.

With all these glorious facts and fat figures, Karachi should have been among the top few slots of the business and tourism destinations of the world. Instead we see shameful sprawling slums as the authorities have not been able to match the requisite infrastructure. The reason for all that would be better understood by the erudite amongst us. One thing for sure, the reasons are manmade and not natural. Therefore, the solution should also be manmade.

All the facts above indicate that the deterioration of Karachi started as soon as the capital was shifted to Islamabad. This is more akin to saying that the wind was taken out of the sails of Karachi.

It is immensely obvious that Karachi, the first capital of Pakistan has long out grown its infrastructure, thus needing an expeditious overhaul. The various custodians have been ripping it of its revenues one after another through various means know to almost all the Karachiites.

The 15 million plus residents of Karachi definitely deserve better treatment.

For Karachi, to regain its glory, all tiers of government should act within their defined parameters, while local governments need to be given the powers and finances to carry out civic duties. There is no need for experiments; good governance can deliver if all parties do their job.

Azmat Zaidi

[email protected]

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