Karachi Story: Consequences of ‘imprudent’ commercialization policy

Karachi Story: Consequences of 'imprudent' commercialization policy

KARACHI: As local government election 2023 concluded with controversial results pitting parties against each other, it is worth remembering what has been done to the city in the past, and by whom.

Today amid all mudslinging and racist slurs, let’s take a look on the politicians and parties at whose behest Karachi suffered and with it its people. Karachi is an allegory fraught with tragedy, lost glory, and desperate venture to command power.

Shehri dot Org’s Amber Alibhai censures the imprudent and impulsive strip commercialization policy of 2003 by then local government of Jamat e Islami that paved way for city’s scarring. It served as scourge to Karachi, she says.

“All successive governments made billions by exploiting this policy to their personal advantages and city suffered.”

Karachi Urban Lab‘s Mohammad Toheed explains how no almost no impact assessment is available before or after the strip commercialization, insinuating this was done without much thought and led to sprawling of illegal construction and encroachment of city spaces out of greed.

“No traffic impact or utility imact data available based on which we can determine what a particular area requires once its landuse status has been updated, so all efforts, given there is any, done afterwards are arbitrary and shallow.”

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Oonib Azam, city beat reporter with extensive works on encroachment and urban policy for an English daily, draws from his reportage the encroachment of Gutter Baghicha to instantiate what has the wild encroachment done to the city and he proves from data and documents how all parties that ruled Karachi in past three decades are responsible for it.

Jamat-e-Islami’s Advocate Saifuddin, LG representative in late Naimat Ullah Khan regime, defends latter’s commercialization policy.

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“In all advance metropolises across the world, this policy is the only way to meet demands. You need both vertical and horizontal expansion.” He told ARY that to address the need, NK chalked out a foolproof plan for it, but it was institutions like the then Karachi Building Control Authority and Karachi Water and Sewerage Board that didn’t follow through.

“They exercised their independent authority and therefore the plan did not realize the way it was supposed to.”

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To which Alibhai said, “that’s exactly what we warned him [NK] of, but cat was out of the bag now.”

Toheed and Alibhai agree the funds that were amassed in commercialization exercise, were to be allocated to infrastructural expansion and capacity building for the respective areas.

You need better roads and maintenance, you need better sewerage lines, you need better amenities when you’re changing the status of a land from residential to commercial, they concur.

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“What Mustufa Kamal did, in successive Muttahida Quami Movement (now MQM P) rule in Karachi, was build bridges and overpasses extravagantly,” Alibhai said.

It didn’t serve any purpose of Karachi, but in fact harmed Karachi’s in many ways, she said.

“For it he used that commercialization policy money that were collected from people who wanted to change their property status, and used them to boast his own name and his party’s.”

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So from the money that was to be used for upgrading and improving particular areas in wake of commercialization “now we have unnecessary bridges and signal free corridors but no traffic management, which causes more traffic jams and frustration” she added.

Later you had Pakistan Peoples Party that took commercialization to whole terrible level by introducing Karachi High Density Zone where you could construct high rises without any consideration of dilapidated infrastructure that could not afford them.

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However, Saifuddin said what Khan did was absolutely necessary and this policy curbed illegal practices that were done anyway to meet the needs. “With legalization of proper commercialization policy, the city could also earn, tax and keep a check.”

He did admit, however, that later on, that’s not how the policy served up to be.


**Experts in this video bear full responsibility for their comments.
Politicians and parties named in the report were duly contacted to respond. Their responses, should they decide to extend them, will be added as per our editorial policy**


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