KARACHI: Businessmen Group (BMG) chairperson and former Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) president, Siraj Kassam Teli, has requested all political parties including Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N), Muttahida Qaumi Movement - Pakistan (MQM) and others to set aside their differences for the sake of Karachi.
He said that Karachi is the industrial, business and financial hub of the country, contributing more than 70% of the revenue to the national exchequer, but the city remains deprived of basic infrastructure facilities. He added that political parties must, therefore, work collectively for the development of the city.
Speaking as chief guest at the inauguration ceremony of 16th My Karachi - Oasis of Harmony Exhibition at Karachi Expo Centre on Friday, Teli said, "Instead of creating hindrances, let every political party work in the interest of Karachi". He added that the PPP should embrace all the parties which would certainly prove favourable for Karachi and its citizens will be benefitted.
Offer to mediate
Teli, on behalf of Aqeel Karim Dhedhi, offered to act as a mediator between the political parties at the federal and provincial level to help resolve their differences. He said, "Many people say Karachi is small but I don't agree with them and I always say that Karachi is Pakistan as without Karachi there is no Pakistan".
He said that although the law and order situation has improved, the infrastructure, particularly the roads in the city, was in a pathetic condition and requires special attention. "We have been contributing 70% to the national exchequer and we don't mind contributing even 90%, but we need basic infrastructure particularly roads, gas, electricity and water". He added that all political parties should be on one page as far as the infrastructure improvement in Karachi was concerned.
The topsy-turvy ride of Pakistan’s business side
While paying tribute to all the exhibitors, particularly the consulates for constantly supporting My Karachi Exhibition since its inception in 2004, Teli said that they had all proved themselves of being true Karachiites through their constant support.
Restoring Karachi's image
He said that the name 'My Karachi' signifies that everyone who lives in this city takes ownership while the theme 'Oasis of Harmony' refers to the multi-cultural, multi-ethnic, multi-lingual and multi-sectarian people of Karachi living together peacefully with complete harmony.
Teli said that My Karachi was initiated in 2004 when terrorist acts were taking place in different parts of Karachi. The Western media was misreporting it by portraying the entire city as unsafe. Thus, he said, KCCI decided to counter such misconceptions and highlighting the positive image of the city through this exhibition.
He opined that Karachi was a safe city where all businessmen, industrialists and even foreigners move freely every day without any problems thanks to the Karachi Operation which was initiated in 2013. "Karachi's previous title of city of lights has been restored and it has become much safer as compared to what it was in the past. Rangers, police and other law enforcing agencies have played a commendable role," he added.
Sindh Local Government Minister Saeed Ghani appreciated Karachi Chamber for regularly organising My Karachi Exhibition. He said that the city desperately needs such positive and healthy activities.
Concurring with Teli, Ghani said that "Karachi is Pakistan" but unfortunately has not received the political freedom to grow. "Improvements in Karachi will only happen when its inhabitants are given the freedom to choose representatives which unfortunately has not happened since the last three decades, resulting in the intensification of the hardships faced by the city," he opined.
"People of Karachi must get their rights and freedom to cast their vote as per their will otherwise the situation will never improve," he stressed, adding that the province was not getting its due share from the national exchequer which creates a lot of liquidity problems for Sindh government. "All these are genuine issues that require attention and we are ready to sit with anyone including the PTI to resolve in the city's issues", he added.
He said that it was unfortunate that people, instead of correcting themselves, were busy in giving suggestions on how to correct others which was one of the major reasons for so many problems the country suffers.
Ghani said that the Sindh government wants to take remedial measures but it needs the support of the business and industrial community. "Karachi will only improve when all the departments stay focused on their work only," he added.
Speaking on the occasion, BMG Vice Chairperson and former KCCI president Zubair Motiwala requested the members of the diplomatic corps to tell the world that Karachi is a peaceful city and a hub of economic activities. He stressed that the negative travel advisories being issued about Karachi need to be reviewed and changed.
In his welcome address, KCCI President Junaid Esmail Makda, while highlighting the salient features of My Karachi Exhibition, said that it provides exhibitors and visitors with excellent opportunities to explore trade possibilities and realise the true potential of Karachi and its natural beauty, traditions and cultural heritage.
He said that the overall economic impact of Karachi Operation was very positive. However, the high incidence of crimes particularly street crimes should also be dealt with on an urgent basis so that even foreigners could safely roam the city.
Stressing the need to depoliticise the police, he said that intense training, strict vigilance, provision of necessary gadgets, arms, ammunition, bulletproof jackets and vehicles and complete transformation of police stations as per international practices have to be done to ensure long-lasting peace in Karachi. All these measures will enable the policemen to swiftly respond in case of any untoward incident and minimise public grievances, he added.
The city has already suffered a great deal at different fronts; he said adding that with PTI government, the business community expects to see Karachi soon regaining its past glory.
BMG Vice-Chairperson Anjum Nisar, BMG General Secretary AQ Khalil, Senior Vice President Khurram Shahzad, Vice President Asif Sheikh Javaid, My Karachi Special Committee Chairperson Muhammad Idrees along with Consul Generals of friendly countries including USA, Germany, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Russia, Philippines, Thailand, Qatar and Kenya attended the inauguration ceremony.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 6th, 2019.