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MQM sitting on ice block, melting away because of influx into city

KARACHI: The third and concluding day of the Fourth International Karachi Conference on Sunday saw discussions on governance and citizenship with an eye on case studies about civil society development initiatives, the traffic and transport drama in the city and environmental degradation.

The first session of the day, ‘Governance and citizenship’, chaired by architect and town planner Arif Hasan served as an interesting start to the day. Dr Kaiser Bengali, head of the Chief Minister’s Policy Reform Unit, Government of Balochistan, focused on the ‘Issues of citizenship and governance in Karachi’. “I see two countries within one,” he said while presenting his paper.

“There is a country of the poor and another of the affluent,” he said while explaining that the rich even if aware of this inequality might not even care. “Their only real worry is how to get to the airport,” he said while showing the class divide through pictures.
‘They may build dams [for Gwadar], but dams do not produce water’

Delving further into the class differences he came to the population trends studied through linguistic groups. Sharing some valuable data, he showed that in 1941 6.3 per cent of Karachi’s population was Urdu-speaking while 61.2pc was Sindhi. But in 1998 48.5pc was Urdu-speaking and 7.2pc Sindhi.

“Twenty to 25pc of the refugees who arrive in Karachi don’t go back home,” he said while giving the example of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where the demographics are such that more and more people from there are ending up in Karachi. The same is the case with south Punjab from where we see so many Seraiki people migrating here. “Later, these outsiders settling here may also ask for a share on the table just like we see some Pakhtuns in the Sindh Assembly today,” he said.

“It is this trend which is adding to the MQM’s insecurity. They know that they are sitting on an ice block, melting away because of others migrating here,” he concluded.

Karamat Ali of the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research, during his presentation on ‘Labour migration: consequences of citizenship and governance in Karachi’ backed Dr Bengali while adding that all over the world settlers tried to eliminate the indigenous local population followed by entering politics.

Arif Hasan also said that the changes in Sindh’s rural areas would bring a big change in Karachi’s population. “The people there will soon be left with no other option but to come to Karachi,” he said.

He also pointed out that Karachi had some 86 degree-awarding institutions but only two polytechnics and six vocational schools. “The polytechnics came about in Ayub’s time and the vocational schools during Bhutto’s time. So looking at the lack of vocational institutions in the city, the universities are as good as being built on sand,” he said while highlighting the need for vocational training with so many migrants coming to the city all of whom won’t be going to university to be able to bag jobs here.

During a question and answer session which followed someone asked if the Gwadar port could change the migration process. Dr Bengali said Gwadar would never be a city like Karachi due to shortage of water there. “They may build dams but dams store water. They do not produce water,” he said, adding that due to the lack of water there would be no industry there. “China, too, was planning a coal industry in Gwadar but then they abandoned the plan as coal needs washing. For that matter, there will also not be as big as a fisheries as there is in Karachi there because for fishing, too, you need to wash the fish and keep it fresh in ice,” he said.

On being asked then that how could Dubai and other cities of the United Arab Emirates were thriving without water, Dr Bengali said they got their water through desalination. “But desalination is a very expensive process, almost six to 12 times the cost of natural water through pipelines.”

In the UAE everything is expensive due to this but here in Pakistan, how can we have expensive things in Gwadar and less costly things in the rest of the country. It just won’t work out,” he said.

The rest of the sessions included papers by Tahera Hasan, lawyer and founding member and director of Imkaan, and Sumera Gul, who is programme manager at the Dr Akhtar Hameed Khan Memorial Trust. It was heartening to learn of Imkaan’s various projects such as Imkaan Ghar, Sehat Ghar, E-Guard and Khel, all of which are about child welfare.

The traffic and transport drama in Karachi and environmental degradation with references to the Tasman Spirit Oil Spill, the effects of rapid urbanisation and issues of fishing communities here made up sessions three and four of the conference.

The summation of the three-day affair came in the form of hour-long film The Journey Within by Adnan Mian, which showed the quest for self-identity in a post 9/11 Pakistan, faced with challenges of war and conflict that leads to an inspirational journey to help reclaim the rich and vast musical heritage of this region by bringing together unique cultural experiences and genres, including but not limited to folk, sufi, rock, pop and rap music.

The moot was organised by the Karachi Conference Foundation in collaboration with the Department of Culture, Tourism and Antiquities of the Government of Sindh at the National Museum auditorium.

courtesy : dawn news

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