Karachi’s problem

Much has been written about Karachi, all of it true, all of it false. There are so many fault lines in the city in addition to the tectonic variety, as the denizens of the city observed with the earthquake the other day that no attempt at analysis could ever hope to be all-encompassing. There are ethnic (in the linguistic, racial sense of the word) divisions, there are sectarian divisions, there are conflicts of cold, economic interests and then there is the plain, old-fashioned gang warfare.

There are certain central facts, however. The political party that runs the city is one of them. The citys consistently magnetic nature, at least as far as economic migration is concerned, is another. Of the many lenses mentioned above, perhaps this is the most visible conflict that the city is seeing at the moment. The current debate on the bloodshed in Karachi discusses only the extent to which a crackdown against miscreants should be carried out. An operation a la Naseerullah Babar vs a simple, organic empowerment of the law enforcement agencies. Though this is an important question that must be addressed, alongside the necessity of spreading the operation evenly, one issue that slips from under the radar of the local pundits far too often is the fact that the citys positive political framework has not kept up with the changing demographic realities of the city.

The Musharraf regime did much gerrymandering of Karachi constituencies to ensure his allies in the city were empowered enough. This deprived the other players of state-recognised political space. That the Pushtuns have only two seats in the provincial assembly doesnt represent the much larger proportion of the city that the ethnic group constitutes. Similarly, the PPP is also not particularly pleased with the slicing and dicing of its own vote bank. A section of the press says that the ruling party jettisoned a plan to rectify the anomalies in the delimitations of the citys constituencies after MQM rejoined the government. Yet another Faustian deal. This is a tough decision that must be taken. Not just for bettering the situation in Karachi but for the very purposes of the representative democracy that the country was envisioned to be governed by. If any decision on a state crackdown in Karachi is taken, it will make no lasting difference unless it is accompanied by such restructuring.