Pakistan has entered this new century with a million problems and almost no resources to deal with them both in economic and political terms.It now reminds me of Medusa's head. Ugly, complex, monstorous. But then there is hope and a sweet longing for survival and change. Karachi is the biggest town with teeming millions almost living as if plugged in like pieces of a puzzle. Apparently the lodgings, water supply, commodities and food markets are placed like monopoly cards, un-planned and almost like bets. For years this dynamic, big hearted city has survived without a master plan. Its citizens, initially few have welcomed people from all across the country with open arms and it was this evolving , open, dynamics which has made it into one of the largest cities in the world.
The ethno-political flavour and color has also evolved and changed over the last few decades. Initially, as the population was less, this appeared to offer no intra-ethnic tensions and almost two decades ago, the ethnic conflict, even when erupted somehow changed and was managed. The religio-sectarian divide was also not so prominent and was gradually made into a " You look after your house and I will mine, thing" by mutual agreement. The political groups have however evolved from formation, built a political behaviour history in the city and acquired popularity and reputations. The reflections in the current governmental and administrative tensions and dynamics in Sindh are a direct result of this evolution. Some very good things have happened also but they are few and far between.
I will discuss in detail as to what is the background of this current tension and what the future really holds for Karachi, Sindh and eventually for Pakistan if we do not understand the issues and work towards developing a consensus on most issues for the welfare of all the communities and political groups in Karachi. This I write about from the perspective of a modern, eductaed, middle class woman , citizen of Karachi who has nothing more dear to her heart except the welfare of the people of Karachi, Sindh and Pakistan.
Right upto 1980, the population of Karachi had almost doubled with entry of more people coming to eke out a living as labourers, industrial workers and some domestic help. The educational institutions also catered to and developed mostly in a private sector setup. After 1980, a larger migration of people from the Frontier province started occuring mostly of people who were better off economically and started setting up small businesse like shops for goods , textile and clothes. These sort of traders with a prosperous future to look forward to started sending their kids to schools, colleges and universities so much so that the present day enrolement in colleges and universities of patahn students is the largest single ethnic group. They are graduating and competing and entering post graduate degree seats and also the corporate and other national job markets in a larger volume. The debate about absorption and employment opportunities of any educated people is another matter to be handled by appropriate specialist.
The next biggest change in the socio-econo-political mileu that has occured in the dynamics of the Karachi make-up is that of the so-called "Muhajir" population. When Pakistan was formed in 1947 almost all iimigrants from Indian areas like UP, CP, Bombay and Kathiawar came to Sindh. Karachi bieng the largest port also recieved the largest qouta from these immigrants. Majority of thes immigrants or so called "Muhajirs" were educated people like clerks, teachers, professors, burauecracy etc. Some other professions like washerman or "Dhobis", carpenters, hakims, and other small traders also settled here. Due to a wide variety of the settlement people, all the different trades and professions developed unhindered and the evolving dynamics resulted in a vibrant Karachi, bustling with trade and business, offering jobs, economic activity, a life, a hope for a better future to all its residents.This color of Karachi remains to this day, as it is and it would be very sad if somehow it is changed or lost.
The administration of Karachi also evolved . The mayor was always there and there was a Council elected which sat in the Karachi Municpal Council building. The civic problems were taken care of by this council.
The expanding construction of buildings and houses to provide residences, offices, shops, warehouses, schools, colleges, and universities and hospitals resulted in the fight for space and propety as this became lucrative. Many large, influential groups of which some were landed from Sindh and some from the money lenders groups, over the years understood the importance of these initially large areas of land that were eventually taken over almost at a pittance and frequently even as a "Qabza" created the many, many groups or "the Monstorous Land Mafia". Frequent martial laws and lack of political representation in governments under martial law administrators resulted in opportunists taking advantage in these vested interest affairs inside city and economically benefitting some groups so much so that the dynamics of land acquisition and doing property business has evolved to a whole new level of corruption, death and destruction. These land mafia vested interest have now managed to buy alsmot everything from big businesses, police and other administartive interests and almost totally made ineffective the whole of the enfranchised, empowered political process. By this time the urban population has swelled to such big proportions that managing the socio-political vision has almost become impossible in the context of a basic civic rights paradigm or set up. The political groups that evolved were the MQM, a party which initially named itself as "Muhajir" identity group but eventually changed its name to "Muttahida" meaning united to indicate its acceptance or opening up to membership to other ethnicities make-up. The political structure of this large urban group based party has remained very organised in a fashion almost like the communist party of China, at all street level reaching upto the highest Central Raabta Committee. Due to their poor and middleclass backgrounds, its workers maybe from larger posh areas also but maintain a simple discipline. The civic behaviour is also apparent in its workers set up.Due to the different political changes in Pakistan and the imposition of the various martial laws, the political history of the MQM is closely linked to its socio-political behaviour with certain regimes. For example, during th BB government a kind of operation was done in the densely populated areas of Karachi in which many of its workers were arrested and put behind bars in order to "tame" them . It was generally known in the non-MQM circles at the time that these "boys " are getting out of hand and the stories of extortion, torture and punishment of people were abundant. The "counter" group of young people like "Najeeb" were giving resistance to these other forces. This confrontational politics in Karachi continued for a time but then a lid was put over the simmering boiling pot.
The present tense nature of distrust between PPP and Mqm has also its links to the 12th May tragedy in which more than 50people were killed in Karachi.
Meanwhile the Pathan construction workers , with the help of the money lending mafia, grew to become contractors. This construction opportunity provided a large employment to Pathan youth who if lacking in education would find a job always and eventually improve their lives. Their children eventually gain education and move up the social ladder and change their social standing with all modern, urban comforts.
The Local Sindhi population which resided in "goths " or small village like abodes still exists but the makeup has changed as newer residents have moved in and the initial moved out to better abodes. This issue still remains as large thorn in the side of the PPP- MQM coalition partnership.
Meanwhile, the complex social interaction has changed and moved beyond simple points of contact. The issue has become more " Status" concious in the context of money, education , area of residence, etc The ethno- social interaction is also changing. for example there is a term a s"beyod the Bridge" meaning the residents of Clifton and Defence and all the millions beyond that. This divide also has strange and negative social implications but that is a topic for another post.
During the Musharraf regime, the city of Karachi, devloped its road and bridges infrastructure as a large sum of money was devoted to this and this did give the city a better communication infrastructure.Due to handling this development by the city mayor under the MQM, the party did gain some goodwill. But the bitter truth is to be revealed by me a s a citizen who is watching and hoping that all sane people ,including those at the highest level do not let the bull inside the china shop.
The issue of ethnic tension between the Pathan and MQM remains as an ugly and dangerous smoking pot. The face of ANP becomes parochial and ethnic in Karachi as the leadership is that from a lower level in Karachi. I am not aware why the ANP, still chooses a less eductaed leadership in Karachi whereas there are better options. This maybe due to the power and group of individuals inside their party in Karachi.
The PPP also seems to have confined its politics along ethnic lines. Its members in government except a few, are almost imposed on Karachi as they are residing in Karachi. The heavy weights in PPP are all landed, fuedals . They have only Houses in Clifton and Defence and thus no political representation in Karachi. The traditional vote from Karachi remains same after so many years of its existence. MQM has only come about in the last two decades. It is amazing and reflective of the leadership in qualty and vision of the Sindh Peoples Party that they have neither competed, nor managed to gain a larger vote from th urban middle class of Karachi. It is reflective of the sheer lack of insight, education and dynamics in the idealogical attraction given to an urban population. Was it deliberate or was it ignorance. I do not thing that Benazir would do either deliberately or out of ignorance. It just puts the fact bare that the leadership of Sindh is not upto the mark in taking the urban middle class along with its party ideology. The face of PPP in Sindh is nationalistic. In both these set ups, the vision and ideology of Bhuttos is bieng countered or if not that at least bieng slumbered upon.
At the end I have at this point in time reached a conclusion that the politics in Karachi, of Karachi have turned to a Socio-ethnic level only. The leadership of the Sindh Peoples Party really needs to wake up and arm itself not with the ammunition of weapons but Eductaion, understanding and consensus building. President Asif Ali Zardari realises the need for consensus building and is always taking steps to improve the situation. I do hope the other stake holders realise this.
The intense divide between the thinking of MQM and Sindh Peoples Party is also reflected in the issue of the division of Hyderabad in four districts. The PPP insistense on reversion is creaing tensions in the coalition. Hyderabad had become almsot unmaneageably degenerated before the administarative division. It had become imperative that unless something was done to salvage theis immediately, there would be disaster. It was decided by the Musharraf regime, to develop Hyderabad also by the districts formation for better prospects. politically it disenfranchises the PPP vote. This is also a step that the Gilani government has decide to take as a reversion of division of Hyderabad as a bitter pill. The federal government is not too keen on undoing allthe steps taken by Musharraf regime like local government etc, but in the context of Sindh it has to do what is the popular demand, though however detrimental to modern civic behavior and health by its Sindh PPP leadership.
Hyderabad also needs to be divided not only in four but smaller administrative units so that the rural population also benefits. But the politics of ethnicity that is MQM labelled as "Muhajirs" and PPP with "Sindhi" face seems to be priority for the Sindh PPP. The Sindh cities really need to develop and develop fast in order to be economically viable. The incessant corruption in Sindh especially in eductaion and infrastructure development has really eaten away at these cities. The PPP Sindh needs to really weed out corruption fron Sindh and instead of blaming MQM and "Muhajirs"for all of Sindh's ills. It should realistically find new ways and means to fight against corruption and bring up their social indicators. The economical benefits from Karachi to Pakistan makes it imperative on Sindh PPP understand the new dynamics of economic and political development. Only in the context of modern civic living will this complex and damaging ethnic divide be bridged for a better , prosperous future for Sindh, and for Pakistan.