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Karachi continues to suffer, with the government looking another way
In what is being seen as a new low in terms of law and order in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city and commercial capital, over one hundred people were deprived of their valuables in a robbery that lasted for more than an hour on a major city road — while both the police and the Rangers looked the other way.
Victims of this crime said that an eight-member gang armed with sophisticated weapons snatched valuables on the Korangi Causeway. They did this by blocking traffic on the causeway and robbed motorists who were to pass through. What one cannot explain is why the LEAs took so long to respond despite repeated calls for help.
What is even more amazing is that no action has been taken against anyone for this major crime. No one was dismissed. No one was suspended. No questions have been asked. Instead, the provincial government claims that news of the rise in crime in Karachi has a political connotation to it. One provincial minister has insisted that crime has actually gone down in the city but fake news is telling another story. And yet the hour-long robbery was not the figment of someone’s imagination. It was a reality.
This is not a conspiracy. Street crime in Karachi has risen to unprecedented levels. Some critics of the ruling party in the province say that the government is not bothered because the residents of Karachi do not vote for it. After what seems to be a couple of years of comparative peace, crime seems to be making a comeback in Karachi. More than 50,000 incidents of street crime were reported in Karachi during the first eight months of 2021. Till mid-February — i.e. in only one and a half months of the current year — 13 people have died and there have been 11,000 reported incidents of street crime. We are watching video clips on social media almost every day of one incident of crime or another.
Karachi continues to suffer, with the government looking another way. This is somewhat unfair as the city pays the most in the country in terms of tax collection. Karachi is riddled with contradictions. For example, the city voted for the MQM in the past decade. There was no love lost between the MQM and the ruling party of the province — the PPP. Now, the city has voted for a mix of parties — largely for the PTI. Again, there is no love lost between the PTI and the PPP. As a consequence there is no conversation between the city’s elected representatives and the provincial government set-up. It seems to be everyone for themselves.
Poor governance has become a hallmark for Karachi. The city suffers from shortages of utilities like water and gas. Public transport is largely missing except for the Green Line that was inaugurated only recently. It is a dirty, disorganised and chaotic city. Encroachments abound. Traffic is unbearable. The police seem to abet crime and not prevent it. People who claim to be domiciled in the city blame outsiders for the problems. But it is more complicated than that.
Where does one start? To begin with, the record of the provincial government in terms of managing Karachi needs to be re-examined. The city’s stakeholders — irrespective of their affiliations — have to be taken on board. More people of Karachi have to take charge of their city. We see a lack of participation from city residents with the exception of a few.
The two key areas are ownership and accountability. The residents of Karachi, irrespective of who they are and what they do, need to take ownership of their city. There is almost no original inhabitant of the city — almost all are those who made Karachi their home in the past few decades. They cannot keep seeing themselves as outsiders. They live here and they need to be part of any move to improve their surroundings.
Nothing can improve unless there is accountability — accountability of not just the government but also of elected representatives; of LEAs and the provincial administrative set up; of political parties and religious leaders. It is time to take things in our own hands. Otherwise nothing will change and the city will continue to decline into further chaos. And more innocent lives will be lost, God forbid!
 
Published in The Express Tribune, February 28th, 2022.
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