The historic Resolution of March 1940 left no ambiguity whatsoever about the structural foundation of the state of Pakistan determining clearly that it would be a federation comprising all the north-western Muslim majority states. Although Bengali Muslims were in the lead in the movement for Pakistan, Sindh in this part of the subcontinent was the first Muslim majority state which passed a resolution in its Legislative Assembly on 3 March, 1943 to join the new federation and became the first state to lay the foundation of Pakistan. The other federating units followed as the date for independence drew closer. Our litmus test then lied in the task of nation building which we, as a nation, miserably failed.
The partition of British India did not envisage transfer of population. The massive migration was the consequence of the communal animosity between the two major communities of the sub continent. The people of Sindh displayed greater humanity, hospitality and generosity to welcome the displaced Muslims from all corners of India. Their spirit of sacrifice was exemplary in the recent human history. However, their feelings of brotherhood were not reciprocated. The leaders taking power in the new country did not listen to the sound counsel of the local leadership to settle a reasonable number of migrants that the meager resources of the province could sustain or which should not cause a population imbalance.
On this issue, four provincial governments from 1947 to 1955 were arbitrarily dismissed. Karachi, the capital of Sindh, was declared as a federal city just after independence. Later, the province was merged into the One-Unit in 1954. To compensate the migrants for the loss of property in their native towns in India, an evacuee trust property scheme was introduced declaring the properties – both urban dwellings and agricultural lands left behind by the migrating Hindus as evacuee trust property for allotment to the migrants. Within no time, the scheme acquired notoriety in deceit, fraud, forgery and corruption. These allotments continued from 1948 well through the One-Unit years. Besides, 15% quota in all the federal and provincial jobs, postings and promotions was fixed for the migrants. When Karachi was made a federal city, a separate quota of 2% of jobs was allocated to it which actually went to the migrants from 1947 to 1954. The Sindhis put up resistance to the declaration of Karachi as a federal city to chagrin of the federal authority. Later, they carried out a sustained movement against the One-Unit and the relegation of their well developed language to the status of a regional dialect dispossessing it of all official transactions of the provincial and divisional administrations and local governments.
The provinces were restored before the general elections of 1970. The migrants, in majority, supported the religious parties which took most of the National Assembly seats from Karachi and Hyderabad. These parties supported the unanimous adoption of the 1973 Constitution. Frankly speaking, the migrants felt, for the first time after 25 years of independence, the disadvantages of their conscious decision of remaining aloof from the majority population in the province. Before they were just busy in enjoying perks of power as they occupied the majority of the powerful posts in the provincial administrative structure. The data of the postings against powerful positions from 1948 to 1954, and 1955-1969 in Sindh bears testimony to this reality. The fact is they insulated themselves from the emerging political trends aligning their political future with the not-so-relevant parties. Notwithstanding their past mistakes, they preferred to live in political isolation instead of accepting the new political and demographic realities.
Their political frustration was exploited by Ziaul Haq. He sowed the seeds of ethnic division in the province to neutralise the Bhutto’s support base in Sindh by generously abetting the establishment of the MQM in the urban centres of the province. The MQM played havoc with the peace and tranquility of Karachi and Hyderabad. They remained active partners in power in different periods – 1988, 1991, and 2002 to 2008. They ruled Karachi and Hyderabad like an absolute monarchy during the Musharraf regime shutting it down frequently on frivolous grounds and blatantly indulging in bloodshed, extortion, targeted killings, arson and torture. To keep their vote base intact, the MQM leadership promoted a discourse that a new province might be carved out of Sindh to accommodate the sons of the so called makers of Pakistan. One more ridiculous argument they preferred is that the new province may comprise the ‘abandoned or evacuee Sindh’. This is an extreme of political frustration – or irrational political behaviour. Now this ridiculous chorus has been joined by a Karachiite trader. Maybe, this gentleman was happy with the frequency of mayhems perpetrated in the metropolis just a few years ago subjecting its residents to untold miseries.
We cannot figure out a Sindh without Karachi – a body with its head chopped off, a land dispossessed of its historical heritage, of its centuries-old links with the Arabian Sea, of its economic, financial and industrial hub, of its literary and intellectual epitome. Sindhis will not accept this nor do they want to reincarnate the bloodletting of 1988, 1990s and 2007. Sindhis have given immense sacrifices in their evolutionary history to preserve the territorial integrity of their land and their struggles of the past two centuries are witness to it.
Before the new country came into existence, Karachi was a neat, clean and bustling city with a sprawling secretariat, monumental structures of architectural grandeur, buzzing shopping streets, educational institutions, public transport facilities, recreation and entertainment spots including bars, night clubs and casinos, a busy seaport and a railway that linked it with the other towns of the province and Punjab. Though it had a manageable and heterogeneous population (700,000 according to 1941 census) of Sindhis, Balochis, Memons, Kathiawaris, Gujratis, Punjabis and Pathans and religious minorities like Hindus, Parsis, Christians, Jews etc, Karachi was a peaceful, tolerant and accommodating city. Out of its population, 406,000 or 57% were Sindhi speaking. Urdu was the lingua franca.
Karachi grew in area and population disproportionately due mainly to the massive induction of migrants. This induction continued unabatedly for decades. The job and business opportunities in the city attracted migration from other federating units. This, over the years, rendered the city unmanageable like all the metropolises in the world. The countries with cities matching Karachi never thought of cutting them from their home states and placing them under the control of the federal or national regime or any military organisation. Such a suggestion could only come from a half-lettered person motivated by selfish interests or by a desire to gain cheap popularity among some misguided groups. The problems of big cities cannot be addressed by passing the buck to the national regime or any other national institute.
No federal regime in the history of Pakistan has so far been able to set an example of good governance providing for the constitutional rights of the common populace to education, healthcare, and security of life, honour and livelihood with a guarantee of rule of law and equality before law, social justice and economic equity. It will be sheer absurdity to expect Islamabad to swirl the magic wand and solve the complex problems of Karachi. The national institutions have their own constitutional mandates with clearly demarcated parameters of jurisdiction. They can be called in aid of civilian authorities in emergencies and natural calamities only. They cannot be called in to shoulder the responsibility of managing a city howsoever complex and daunting its problems may have become. This is exclusively the task of the civilian, political and administrative institutions.
All the big cities of Pakistan – Sukkur, Lahore, Rawalpindi, Multan, Faisalabad, Peshawar and Quetta, more or less, have identical problems of public transport, drainage and sewerage, sanitation and hygiene, garbage lifting, traffic congestion, clean drinking water, building of road and streets etc. However, Karachi surpasses other cities in the gravity of these problems due to the vested interests of political parties and groups. They have kept their selfish political interests over and above the welfare of the city. The MQM – claimant of the representation of the Karachi, lost repeated opportunities for developing the city into an exemplary metropolis, free from the problems we cry hoarse about since decades, and maintaining its earlier fame for peace, tolerance and economic, industrial, educational, intellectual and literary activities. They made a horrible example out of the ‘city of lights’ and now cry over the spilt milk.
The Pakistan People’s Party also failed to discharge its responsibility towards the metropolis particularly after 1988. The first PPP provincial administration accorded due importance to the city – building and widening roads, running urban transport, developing new sources of drinking water, setting up Steel Mills, revamping Karachi Port Trust and constructing Muhammad Bin Qasim seaport etc. The second PPP administration in coalition with the MQM could not maintain the same tempo in developing Karachi falling in the quagmire of the ethnic division. Over decades, the virulent and violent contest among the political parties and groups to carve out their areas of influence or electoral pockets to the sheer neglect of the city has brought us to this ugly situation where both the elected Mayor of the metropolis and the provincial administration are locked in an unending and inexplicable quarrel over administrative powers, jurisdiction and financial allocations.
This brings us to the logical argument that Karachi should have one of the same systems that governs its peers in Asian and European countries. The city should be further divided into small districts or boroughs – each governed by a local government with a body of elected councilors, and necessary powers for administration, building controlling and civic duties. The Mayor of the city should be elected by direct or indirect vote of the people as in all the big cities of Asia and Europe with a Legislative House. The House should approve or reject the legislative plan, development schemes, and financial levies of the Mayor. There should be a methodical system of allocating funds between the Mayor’s office and Borough Local Governments. The Mayor should have powers to generate funds from local taxes, tariffs and fees and a share from the provincial pool of resources through Provincial Finance Commission.
The metropolis should have its policing system overseen by the Mayor for maintenance of law and order and controlling traffic. An effective auditing system, independent of Mayor’s office, should be introduced under the Accountant General of the province with the national anti graft watchdog taking cognisance of more serious cases of pilferage and mismanagement. Shunning their political vested interests, the stakeholders will have to join heads to evolve a local government system which may effectively address the growing problems of our cities and towns. Such a system of local governance will take out the wind out of the sails of the people hell bent on the territorial division of Sindh, and bring the much-needed respite to a beleaguered Karachi and other cities of Sindh. TW