Too little, too late: Will patching the road now patch up the families’ anguish?

Karachi's most neglected locality gets sanitary workers to clean up ahead of VIPs' visit.

Naeem Sahoutara May 14, 2015
Al Azhar Gardens. PHOTO:

KARACHI: The alAzhar Gardens is an oasis of prime real estate and infrastructure in the wilderness that lie at the outskirts of Karachi. It houses a community so apolitical that most people didn't know the colony existed until it appeared on the radar in the most tragic of circumstances on Wednesday morning.

The residential complex, built exclusively for members of the Ismaili community, appears to be a masterpiece of urban planning — a stark contrast to the general wilderness, the largely unpaved roads with no streetlights and the bare minimum of infrastructure. The colony is part of the Scheme 33 that comprises cooperative societies and has become a haven for land grabbers over the years.

"There is hardly a comparison between the community and the locality. No one would believe that the educated and wealthy Ismailis will be living in this jungle," Syed Irtiza Rizvi, a resident of the locality told The Express Tribune, explaining the Ismaili community's lifestyle and the issues facing the neighbourhood.

A visit to the alAzhar Gardens where the funeral prayers were held for the 45 Ismailis killed in the attack on the community's bus on Wednesday morning, proved Rizvi's claims. Apart from the odd pale-coloured bungalow in sight, the rest of the land was covered by thorny bushes and sand.

"After sunset, we do not dare come out of our homes because criminals rule the streets of Safoora Goth," a resident told The Express Tribune. "People are even afraid of taking the shortest route that leads to Sohrab Goth and Super Highway," he added.

Residents claimed that the road leading to alAzhar Gardens from Safoora Chowrangi had been in a bad shape for as long as they could remember. A drive to the colony feels almost like a desert safari. The inner streets have no electricity poles, let alone streetlights. A small strip of the road in the front of the prayer hall, which has been developed by the community itself, shines bright against the wilderness.

"Would anyone believe that the Ismaili community, which has funded development works all over the country and built the best hospitals and educational institutes, are forced to live in such conditions?," lamented another resident, who did not wish to be named. "Despite its prime location and its close proximity to Super Highway, the area just gets cut off from the rest of the country," he added.

Patching the wounds

Wednesday's tragic incident finally brought the locality to the limelight and perhaps to the knowledge of the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation authorities too.

The main roads and internal streets had dozens of marks of fresh patchwork hurriedly carried out in the night — hours after the ill-fated bus had driven through the same route to the Memon Hospital.

The sanitary workers, who usually finish their work before the citizens wake up, were still cleaning the roads well into the morning. The heaps of garbage along the roads and the greenbelts suggested it had not been removed for months, if not years.

All this was in anticipation of the VVIPs' visits to the alAzhar Gardens. "The ambulances transported 43 bodies in a convoy moving on the patched streets. But who will patch the wounds inflicted on these families?" murmured a reporter taking the route back to the office.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 15th, 2015. 


zohaib | 7 years ago | Reply I am resident of Al Azhar Garden. All surrounding road are in very bad condition for past 10 years. This is one of the reason these terrorist took advantage of. Bus use this route every day and Speed of bus was very slow because of road condition.Our community tried many time to approach government and Police but they didn't do anything about it. Even we try to approach them to build this road for us and also provide money to government and they just took our money and didn't do anything about it. After losing our community member all of the sudden. Now they are patching the road. Very Shameful.We don't want to give lives everyday to just to Improve our surrounding.
TazHz | 7 years ago | Reply Today I drive my car on the costly Road as far as I can remember. This road is patched after the incident of safoora goth. We have to lay our lives to have pleasure of driving on smooth Road. This road is patched after 46 people died (who also travelled on the same road for years). But Road is repaired with in 2 two days after killing of ismailis, because vips are expected to teavel on this road. Sad and shamful act buy the authorities concern that they can repair Road in 48 hrs but they did not do it for years.
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