By Khalid Hashmani
As relationship between Pakistan and the USA moves downwards, Washington DC is once again seeing a flurry of seminars, discussions and briefings organized by various Think-tank and academic institutions. One such event was focused on astonishing expansion of Karachi. The event was inspired by a recent book called “Instant City: Life and Death in Karachi” written by Steve Inskeep of NPR’s Morning Edition. Using this book as a backdrop, Global Economy and Development and Metropolitan Policy at Brookings Institution organized a discussion on November 29 with Steve Inskeep. Other panelists included Stephen Cohen, Alan Berube, and Shuja Nawaz. Johannes Linn moderated the discussion. One highlight of the discussion was a rebuttal by a Sindhi-American that “Karachi is the heart of Sindh and Sindhis will never allow separation of Karachi from Sindh” when panelist Shuja Nawaz stated that a proposal to make Karachi as a separate province along with creating other provinces. (Full audio and details at http://www.brookings.edu/events/2011/1129_instant_city.aspx).
Karachi could lead growth of Pakistan
Steve Inskeep, a reporter for more than twenty years has been a frequent visitor to Karachi and other parts of South Asia. His interest in Karachi intensified after he attended the trial of killers of journalist Daniel Pearl in the city. In 1947, Karachi’s population was only 400,000 lived in Karachi; most of who proudly identified themselves as Sindhis. The UN population figures show Karachi’s population to be around 13.1 million. The population growth has been astonishingly high with migrants coming from other provinces and neighboring countries. Every imaginable problem of instant urbanization can be seen in Karachi. Steve gave an example of person who migrated from Swat some years ago. Originally, he came to Karachi for better education but ended up opening an import-export wholesale business. The rampant corruption touches every aspect of life. A place where already rich politicians, political parties, military and civilian officials, and gangsters become super rich by using their influence to take over large pieces of land including parks, schools, playgrounds, or any land or condemned building and then sell the land in small parcels at huge profits. A city that has become as ungovernable as the central government and sees constant interference from Pakistan’s military and other semi-organized groups. Unlike other mega cities in India like Mumbai where economic growth is impressive, Karachi remains stagnated under the weight of unhealthy competitive interests, ethnic rivalries, and religious differences. In concluding his presentation, Steve said if there is a way that Pakistan could get back to the path of economic growth, Karachi will lead the way that growth. In an answer to a question, Steve talked about Karachi could follow the footsteps of Hong Kong and become a big commercial center in South Asia if Pakistan gets its act together and manages its relationship with India more cooperatively.
In some ways Karachi-Sindh is like Los Angles and New York