Demanding rights: Water crisis in Karachi draws protesters out on the streets

Under the banner of MQM, a large number of men and women march towards CM House

The protest staged by MQM continued late into the evening with workers, including women, smashing clay pots onto the road as a sign of protest. PHOTO: ATHAR KHAN/EXPRESS

KARACHI: The burgeoning water crisis in the port city led a large number of people to take to the streets in protest on Sunday.

Under the banner of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a large number of men and women staged a protest outside Chief Minister (CM) House. MQM leaders and workers gathered at Karachi Press Club and marched towards the CM House, removing the obstacles put up by security agencies along the way to prevent the crowd from entering the Red Zone.

Heavy contingents of riot police and other law enforcement agencies were deployed on the route. However, the crowd, which appeared to be angered at some points by the barricades, proceeded unhindered. Criticising Chief Minister Qaim Ali Shah, MQM leader Farooq Sattar said that they demand nothing but safe drinking water. “[It] is our right as taxpaying citizens of this country and this province,” he said. According to him, the Sindh CM always opts to overlook these protests and call it a siege of his official residence instead of realising his responsibility and solving the issue.

This is just a trailer, said Sattar addressing the gathering assembled outside CM House. He added that if the authorities did not pay heed to the issue, a sit-in will be staged. He stressed that the MQM only wanted to register a peaceful protest.

Talking about the water crisis in the city, MQM spokesperson Aminul Haque told The Express Tribune that the issue was becoming widespread due to the ineptitude and corruption of authorities. “The K-IV project [meant to add 650 million gallons per day (MGD) to the existing water supply] ought to have been completed in 2013, but it has not yet started,” he lamented. Haque said that the metropolitan city needed around 1,100 MGD of water but it barely receives half of it. The provincial government is not serious about the issues of this city, he commented, referring to the other problems of waste management and health.

The ownership factor

MQM’s mayoral nominee, Wasim Akhtar, remarked that those who ‘own’ this city should be allowed to manage its affairs. “MQM has the major mandate over this city but still [we are] being excluded from playing any part in its management,” he said, pointing out inefficiency and corruption on the part of the provincial government as reasons for the situation.

Way forward

When asked about the way forward, Akhtar was of the view that K-IV must be launched immediately and the corrupt policies of the current government must be ended. He was also of the view that institutions such as the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board, a key stakeholder in the water management of the city, must be brought under the control of the city government. He said that if given authority to conduct such affairs, he will also take action against all negative elements such as the hydrant and water mafia.

Protest scene

The protest continued late into the evening as MQM leaders addressed their workers. MQM workers, including women, smashed clay pots onto the road as a sign of protest. The road leading to CM House was blocked with containers from PIDC signal. Until the filing of this report, it was learnt that the Sindh government had contacted Khawaja Izharul Hassan, the leader of the opposition in the Sindh Assembly, and a four-member delegation of the MQM reached the CM House to find a solution to the existing problem.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 6th, 2016.

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