Karachi’s education hub struggles under the weight of encroachments

Published: July 18, 2018
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Karachi's education hub under the weight of encroachments. PHOTO: MOHAMMAD NOMAN/EXPRESS

Karachi's education hub under the weight of encroachments. PHOTO: MOHAMMAD NOMAN/EXPRESS

KARACHI: In terms of education and health facilities, NA-243 is the city’s nerve centre, home to some of the largest public-sector universities in the province – Karachi University, NED University of Engineering and Technology and Federal Urdu University of Arts, Science and Technology. The constituency also houses two of the largest modern private hospitals in the country – the Aga Khan University Hospital and Liaquat National Hospital. Besides, National Stadium Karachi and National Coaching Centre – the city’s iconic sports facilities are located in this constituency.

With a total population of 695, 588, as many as 401,833 are registered to vote for the national assembly seat.

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Divided into posh and slum areas, the residents of this constituency are faced by a barrage of civic issues such as acute water shortage, load shedding, dilapidated roads, broken-down sewerage system, illegal encroachments and rampant street crimes. All this despite the fact that the Civic Centre, the headquarters of the Karachi Development Authority and the Sindh Building Control Authority, lies within this constituency.

Based on the latest delimitations, NA-243 constitutes two seats of the provincial assembly – PS-101 and PS-102. Major areas included within its boundaries are Gulshan-e-Iqbal, the southern areas of Jamshed Quarters sub-division, Metroville III, Abul Hassan Isphahani Road, most blocks of Gulistan-e-Jauhar, Pehelwan Town Goth block 9, University Road, Crescent Apartments, Numan Complex, Bagh-e-Mehran, Baloch Goth, Waseem Bagh, Rehemtiya Colony, Bahadurabad and Sharfabad, among others.

Education and health

In addition to the public sector varsities, the constituency also houses the Sir Syed University of Engineering and Technology, one of the largest private universities in the city. Besides, the National Institute of Blood Disease – considered to the largest facility for patients with blood cancer – is based in this constituency.

What this constituency lacks, however, is a public hospital. Around eight years ago, the Sindh government had initiated the construction of a 400-bed hospital at NIPA Chowrangi. The facility was later handed over to a retired surgeon of Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre, who is believed to be a close aide of former president Asif Ali Zardari. The hospital, which has yet to be made functional, will now operate as an orthopedic facility.

Sports activities

In terms of sports activities, NA-243 finds no parallel in the city, with the country’s oldest cricket stadium – National Stadium – located opposite the National Coaching Centre, which hosts national-level athletic games. The Karachi Hockey Association’s ground is also located on University Road, besides the hockey ground named after Olympian Iftikhar Syed, located in Gulshan-e-Iqbal Block 6.

Public parks

At the junction of University Road and Sher Shah Suleman Road lies the iconic Expo Centre, which hosts national and international exhibitions and seminars. Some of the city’s biggest parks – Safari Park, Aziz Bhatti Park, Alladin Water Park and Sindbad – are located in this constituency. After years of neglect by the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, the Safari Park seems to have lost much of its former beauty, with few animals remaining at the facility and even the chairlift no longer functional. However, it is still a popular picnic spot for hundreds of citizens every weekend. The Aziz Bhatti Park has seen a similar decline, with the boundary walls and jogging track broken in several places. Unhinged by the deterioration, scores of residents religiously visit the park each morning for jogging and exercise.

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Civic facilities

Behind the façade of these major establishments, the constituency is faced with bitter realities that make the lives of its residents miserable on a daily basis. The foremost concern is an acute shortage of water. Those from lower-income households must walk long distances to fetch water in makeshift containers from public taps. Others who can afford water tankers must pay huge sums for a steady supply.  Almost all the areas falling within the Gulshan-e-Iqbal sub-division areas have an abysmal sewage system. Other areas are dotted with ill-planned concrete structures with no thought for waste disposal.  Many roads and streets including Dalmia Road, which was renovated just a few months ago, have been dug up again for utility lines.

Besides, large areas adjoining University Road and Rashid Minhas Road have been encroached, causing traffic jams on a regular basis. Restaurant owners have laid out seating arrangements from Hassan Square to NIPA Chowrangi, where customers often park their vehicles on the roads, disrupting the flow of traffic. University Road was relaid recently at a cost of Rs1.24 billion. Frequent power cuts and rampant street crime are other major areas of concern for residents of this constituency.

Once a largely residential area of one-plus storey bungalows, the area has seen rampant commercialisation over the last decade or so. High-rise buildings have been constructed on amenity plots, obtained through nefarious means in connivance with government agencies. The provincial government and KMC officials’ apathy and greed has decreased the Safari Park land from 407 to 257 acres. Besides, hundreds of acres of land have been occupied by private institutions and the land mafia, with legal cover provided by the government agencies.

Tough contest

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan is contesting from NA-243, where he will face the Muttahida Qaumi Movement’s Syed Ali Raza Abidi, Pak Sarzameen Party’s Muzammil Qureshi, Pakistan Peoples Party’s Shehla Raza, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal’s Usama Razi, Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz’s Shahjahan, Tehreek-e-Labaik Pakistan’s Syed Nawazul Huda, Muhajir Qaumi Movement’s Kamran Ali Rizvi and other independent candidates.

MQM’s Muhammad Haroon Siddqui, PSP’s Muhammad Salman, PTI’s Firdous Shamim Naqvi, PPP’s Ayub Khosa, PML-N’s Parveen Bashir, MMA’s Babar Qamar Alim, MQM-H’s Kashif Ali and TLP’s Muhammad Asif are contesting for PS-101.

Meanwhile, the MQM’s Muhammad Arsalan Khan, PSP’s Farhan Ansari, MMA’s Syed Qutub Ahmed, PPP’s Muhammad Riaz, PML-N’s Sheikh Yasir Adeel, PTI’s Arsalan Taj Hussain, GDA’s Muhammad Ashfaq, TLP’s Muhammad Yahya and MQM-H’s Arif Hussain, besides independent candidates, are competing for PS-102.  In the past, the areas within this constituency fell under NA-253 and PS-118 and PS-116, respectively. The MQM’s Muzamil Qureshi secured victory from NA-253 in the 2013 general elections. MQM’s Mehmood Abdul Razzaq was successful from PS-116 and MQM’s Adnan Ahmed returned from PS-118. Qureshi and Razzaq have now joined the PSP.

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