- Karachi has been through a deluge
Once upon a time, God Almighty asked his Prophet, Noah, to build an ark to save mankind and many of his other creations from the coming deluge. Noah did as instructed and built an ark strong enough to accommodate many species in pairs so that they could procreate. Came the Deluge. And he saved them. This story is from before Biblical times but is included in the Bible and the Quran. There are people who still search for the Ark. Though being built of timber, it would be awesome if it has lasted so long.
One had been fearing the destruction of Karachi if there were a deluge. Well, the deluge came and the much neglected city nearly drowned. It came close to extinction with all services at a near standstill– no electricity, no potable water, unreliable gas supply, fallen electric wires electrifying the water and killing many, houses washed away, people washed away, roads washed away, vehicles drowned…the suffering is endless.
The biggest hurdle before Imran Khan will be the system, which throws up the worst amongst us. He will have to find a way to correct this and put the system right. It will be his greatest gift to Pakistan. And putting the system right is not as complex as it may seem
Came the moment, came the man. Prime Minister Imran Khan went to Karachi and announced a Rs. 1.1 trillion package to rebuild the city to its former glory when it was known as the ‘City of Lights.’ Karachi got electricity in 1906, some 14 years before the USA got it, which is why it was known as ‘the City of Lights.’ It was not just the City of Lights but it was also the ‘City of Life.’ Starting off as a small fishing village named after an old lady, Mai Kolachi, its name morphed, probably during the British Raj, to “Karachi.” The British made it the air transport hub of the region. There was a time when virtually all airlines of consequence would land in Karachi for refueling. Young men would venture forth to hotels and hostels where airlines stewardesses used to lay over. This small fishing village became a cosmopolitan city after the birth of Pakistan when it was made the new country’s capital.
Then disaster struck. And the beginnings of Karachi’s destruction started. The military ruler, General Ayub Khan, declared that he would shift the country’s capital some 1000km away to a place in the wilderness that he would name, “Islamabad.” Building Islamabad was a great feat indeed and Islamabad real estate has become the most sought after in Pakistan. It primarily houses civil servants, the Naval Headquarters far away from the sea and the army in its twin city, Rawalpindi, a British garrison town, some 10km away. It was done to keep General Ayub close to his constituency, the Army. From being the premier city of Pakistan, it became the fourth most important city after Islamabad, Lahore and Dhaka. But it still remained the hub of all business and commerce for Pakistan’s one and only port at that time was in Karachi. The stock exchange was there. Many industries had sprung up. The mantra still remained: “If you want to succeed young man, go to Karachi.” And many did from all over Pakistan. It has the largest Pakhtoon population in the world, even more than any city in the KPK province. Despite its down-gradation, Karachi remains the beating heart of Pakistan and in that sense, its capital. It was a dire mistake and a great tragedy to shift the capital from Karachi.
More disaster was to strike Karachi. General Ayub begat his political son, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, on the now hapless country. Bhutto created the People’s Party. Ayub Khan also begat a drunk and debauched general called Yahya Khan who assumed the reins of power. A power struggle ensued between East and West Pakistan because East Pakistan’s majority would ensure that Bhutto would never come to power in an election. And so it came to pass. Sheikh Mujeeb’s Awami League thrashed the People’s Party and acquired all the seats in East Pakistan bar one. Bhutto was all set to be leader of the opposition but this was unacceptable to him. The solution to the problem was simple for Bhutto: cut East Pakistan off from West Pakistan. No East Pakistan, no Bengali majority and Bhutto would find himself at the top of the heap. Along with the treacherous Yahya Khan, too drunk to realize the enormity of what he had taken on, he attacked East Pakistan, which gave India just the chance it had been waiting for. It intervened and conquered East Pakistan declaring it the independent country of Bangladesh.
Bhutto was now cock of the walk. Only West Pakistan was left and he declared it was a new Pakistan. It didn’t occur to him and his mindless followers that the break-up of Pakistan militated against the founder, Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s Two Nation Theory. Pakistan in a sense lost its raison d’être.
Not that it bothered Bhutto a jot. His party had won only in the Punjab. He failed to get a majority in his home province, Sindh, nothing in Balochistan and one seat in the NWFP (which is now KPK.) But because he took over from Yahya Khan and his equally treacherous gang of generals, he assumed the title of Chief Martial Law Administrator.
Imagine the man who rejoiced in the title of ‘Father of Democracy’ being the head of military rule. It was an assault on reason. He only lost the title when the Supreme Court ordered the lifting of martial law but he continued to rule under emergency regulations, which he never lifted throughout his tenure. In the meantime, he packed up the governments of Balochistan and the NWFP. Beat up protesters and opponents, arrested many editors and journalists in an attempt to throttle the press, made a concentration camp in a place called Dalai… his crimes against Pakistan were endless. Essentially he became the first and the worst civilian dictator of Pakistan. And his Party was always unelected.
Misreading the public mood, he called elections in 1977, which he rigged roundly. The public rose in protest and the agitation lasted for some five months before, you guessed it, the Army took over again in the shape of Bhutto’s pet General, Zia-ul-Haq. He hanged Bhutto and thus created a dynasty which Pakistan is still suffering. From his daughter to his son-in-law and now his young grandson, Bilawal, who just goes on making stupid statements as he’s probably told to.
Zia-ul-Haq let the mullah genie out of the bottle, which we are also still suffering. Suffice it to say, that Zia-ul-Haq was Bhutto’s parting kick to Pakistan. True to tradition, Zia-ul-Haq begat the MQM and Altaf Hussain, its leader. Followed a string of heinous crimes in Karachi, which reduced the entire city to a gangland. Zia-ul-Haq also begat Nawaz Sharif. Between the loot and plunder of Nawaz and Bhutto’s progeny, the country was bled dry and Karachi was placed in the intensive care unit. It was a great shame.
Came the deluge. Came Karachi’s inordinate suffering but also hopefully its salvation. I say “hopefully” because Imran Khan’s is still an announcement that he will dedicate Rs. 1.1 trillion for rebuilding the city. But a city is not just buildings and roads. It has a soul and the soul comes from its people. Happily, the people of Karachi remain vibrant, dynamic, aware and dying for the city to be salvaged. If Imran Khan can go through with his plan, Karachi will be salvaged and rise again. But he should be aware of the proverbial slip between the cup and the lip. His greatest opponents will be those dead-in-the-water politicians and political parties who will fear that Imran’s success would wrest this golden goose from their clutches. Negative voices started even before the echoes of Imran’s statement died. The juvenile Bilawal said that Rs. 800 billion of the 1.1 trillion had been provided by Sindh. It begs the question, if they had, why is Karachi in this state? “Oh it’s ongoing projects!” said the People’s Party’s Chief Minister of Sindh. These ‘ongoing projects’ would take 26 years to implement. What a joke! The allocation in the Sindh budget for Karachi is only Rs. 32 billion and that too they probably don’t have. We are trapped by these hollow claims of paper tigers like Bilawal J. Zardari, the J standing for ‘Juvenile.’ Like the J in Trump’s name is for “jenius.”
Yet the biggest hurdle before Imran Khan will be the system, which throws up the worst amongst us. He will have to find a way to correct this and put the system right. It will be his greatest gift to Pakistan. And putting the system right is not as complex as it may seem. In some later article, I will give my ideas on what the corrections ought to be.
The true salvation of Karachi, Sindh and Pakistan lies in the demise of all looting plundering political parties like the People’s Party, Nawaz’s PML, the MQM and the comical JUI(F) of the mullah. Hopefully only then will we get good civilian governments which will not create the bridge for military rule that will cause the army to march over and beget other demons.