Karachi has become too big for Sindh. It has almost eaten up the province.
These were the words of Arif Hasan, the city’s best-known town planner, who has also documented its demographic changes. He was speaking at a seminar organised by the Urban Resource Centre on Tuesday at a time when the two key coalition partners are struggling to craft a local government system that is equally acceptable to Sindh’s urban and rural populations.
The changing demographics of Karachi have engendered a sense of deprivation among the Sindhis – they feel that the city is being developed at the expense of the rest of the province, he said. “The Urdu-speaking people feel that Tuglaq House [Sindh secretariat] is inaccessible to them and the Sindhis don’t feel at home with local government institutions,” he added.
The 1998 census numbers showed that the metropolis accounts for 62 per cent of the urban population of the province.
About 70 years ago, people who spoke Sindhi, Balochi, Seraki and Gujrati made up 73 per cent of city’s population. “In 1998, that number plummeted to 13 per cent. Urdu was spoken by just six per cent back in 1941. But this figure jumped up to 48.5 per cent in 1998,” Hasan said
He ascribed the complexity of the problem to the migration of people from other parts of the country. “There is no easy solution. Everyone has to make some sort of compromise.”
He urged schools and hospitals in Karachi that are run by the local government to open their doors to people from rural areas without any discrimination. “I strongly believe that municipal service delivery should be in hands of elected mayors and councilors. But an independent bureaucracy is also needed to keep an eye on them,” said Hasan.
Notwithstanding the development of the city, he said there were fewer complaints of discrimination when a city was run by administrators.
If the developed areas of the city insist that more money be spent on them for their contribution to taxes, then the poor localities will long for better services, he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 21st, 2011.