Every now and then, as if on cue, some Western publication house or research group, issues a report that puts down Pakistan in one way or another. The latest is the Economist Intelligence Unit’s indictment of Karachi as one of the least livable cities of the world. These kinds of reports are not just focused on Pakistan. There are many such reports that criticise other developing countries like India, in which case thanks to our own insecurities we are happy to applaud and highlight. One sometimes wonders whether there is some political agenda to this, but given the love Pakistanis have for conspiracy theories, it is best to avoid such speculation. Let us focus on the facts: like most such Western research houses and publication houses, the EIU does not have a full-time staffer on the ground who would spend time and effort to collect data and collate facts. Instead, the EIU, and many others like it, rely on locals whose ability to analyse and collate data are questionable. This data is then used to project a situation that is not always based on reality.
Granted Karachi has a multitude of problems. Compared to cities like Dubai and Mumbai, there is much to do and improve. To begin with, despite being elected, the city mayor has little authority. The powerful bureaucracy holds onto the powers. This affects the ability of elected representatives to deliver on issues like law and order, justice as well as municipal services. Other than that, the federal government starves the city of its due share of funds. The PML-N government remains Punjab-centric while the provincial government indirectly working under the ministrations of Asif Zardari reportedly remains focused on making a fast buck. That is why cities like Karachi suffer. And yet Karachi remains Pakistan’s largest and possibly most livable city. Credit goes to its residents who face the challenges of neglect and corruption with a can-do attitude that defies the biggest challenges. It is time we recognised reality and stopped measuring Karachi through Western lenses.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 21st, 2017.
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