KARACHI: Karachi has been turned into a joke. A dirty joke. A joke so filthy it makes you want to cringe at the sight of it.
It is a living testimony to the apathy of the local administration and the provincial government that we find the whole city, its roads and streets, its parks and playground and its neighbourhoods strewn with dirt and filth. Or is it a manifestation of a policy to let the citizens of this God-forsaken metropolis die of preventable diseases such as Naegleria, dengue and Congo, not to mention the thousands admitted to hospitals suffering from water-borne diseases.
Karachi is an inside joke, shared among the politicians, while citizens keep hoping for a miracle. The world’s seventh-largest city and Pakistan’s prime money-making apparatus, Karachi does not have the money or political will to care for itself or its citizens.
During the last one month, politicians have bickered over who cares for the city most. Karachi is an orphaned child who everyone claims to love but none wish to care for. It is a city everyone wants to possess but no one wants to own.
On the face of it, everyone is worried about the city, its crumbling infrastructure and the fact that many of its roads are barely visible under heaps of garbage. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led federal government said it would clean the city within two weeks. Then its minister, Ali Zaidi, asked the citizens to cough up money for the job.
The Pakistan Peoples Party-led Sindh government says it is already doing a good job. “We have lifted [insert number in the multiple of 1000] tonnes of garbage from Karachi,” some minister claims on a daily basis. In the same breath, the minister points fingers at the Centre and the mayor, Waseem Akhtar, for destroying the city. The Centre, the minister claims, is not giving Sindh’s due share of funds. The mayor, he says, is in cahoots with the Centre.
The mayor, who is affiliated with the Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan, plays the victim card. He says he has no money, no power and no resources. He blames the PPP-led government and beckons the Centre to intervene.
And now a fourth player has jumped into the fray. Syed Mustafa Kamal – the chief of Pak Sarzameen Party – a former Nazim, is remembered by many as an energetic leader, who in many ways added to the city’s infrastructure. These days, he spends his energy criticising everyone and inviting the armed forces to take over the city or at least help clean it.
On Monday, the mayor played a joke on the former nazim. He gave Kamal the job of ‘Project Director Garbage’ and invited him to clean the city in 90 days. The next day, Kamal was stripped of his flashy new title. He was ‘playing politics’, said the mayor.
And so the saga continues. Each new day brings more rhetoric, more mudslinging, more finger-pointing and more misery for the citizens.
Karachi, home to over 1.5 million people, has no public transport, a crumbling road network, an antiquated sewerage system, a worsening water crisis, an almost non-existent public healthcare system and deteriorating law and order.
Here, countless people were killed because a sitting chief justice was to be stopped from attending a ceremony. No one was held to account. Here, 250 workers were burned alive in a garment factory because the owners refused to pay extortion money. No one was held to account. Here, 33 people were killed from electrocution after some rain. No one was held to account. Here, robbers shoot more people every day for resisting mugging attempts. No one is held to account. Here, 11 people have died of Naegleria in the current year alone because the water supply agency did not add enough chlorine to the water. No one was held to account. Here, only the poor lose their houses and shops when the Supreme Court thunders at the authorities for selling the city to the ‘mafias’.
Karachi is a cruel joke. And its citizens are no longer laughing. The irony is, they are not even allowed to mourn.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 28th, 2019.