Articles of the year 2009

Saving Karachi
Published on September 19th, 2009

What an incredibly wretched country we live in. Eighteen women and children die in a stampede while lining up for flour and sugar, being doled out by a philanthropist, who has been doing this for years. This year the flour shortage has been highlighted by the media, and queues of people have been shown on TV waiting in lines and sometimes being lathi charged by the police when the crowd got out of hand. There is a surreal air about the plight of the citizens. The shortage is manipulated, and the government functionaries, are all part of the scheme. While the shortage may be contrived, the multiplier effect of the long lines of buyers can and did get out of hand and 18 people lost their lives. No one in the Sindh government is seriously looking into this incident. Islamabad continues in its soporific stupor too busy with its begging bowl, looking for any givers. The world has by now become too inured of the Pakistani plight, that they have promised much, but delivered nothing to date. The Americans are saying quite blatantly that they do not trust the Pakistani government, and would like to control the physical disbursements. The new expression being used is 'trust deficit'. This shortfall in monies into the system will surely spiral, and cause shortages in the governments ability to move the commodities around to the markets. The businessmen and the traders are in league with the officials to benefit from the contrived shortages. The regular exporting industries are being ignored, and our markets have been taken over by the Bangladeshi and Sri Lankan exporters. Not realising that once a market has been captured by a new seller it is next to impossible to get back in. Of course, China - the New Giant has taken the world by storm, with its huge manufacturing capacity, and has priced everyone out of the market. In fact, the second largest manufacturer and exporter of shoes from Pakistan admitted that his shoes are being manufactured in China and imported into Pakistan at a lower price than he can produce.

The government has become so used to the handouts and is sure that the inflow of US dollars will tide us over the trade deficit. This attitude does not help the exporter for his requests are put on the backburner for the governments priorities have shifted. The government does not realise that it is the manufacturer, and the exporter that is the backbone of a country. If there is no production and no export how will Pakistan pay its bills - oil for a start is our biggest import. We have to learn to earn and pay our own way. The monies borrowed will have to be repaid.

In the meantime Pakistan is protected from the ravages of the US banking collapse, for the simple reason that our economy is only 25 percent of our 'real' undocumented economy. Thus, it is separated from the shocks of the international banking set-up. However, by ignoring our exports, we shall turn into a perennial basket case. It is important that our businessmen be encouraged to concentrate on manufacture and exports. Otherwise we can slide from a basket case to a failed state. In either condition we will have destroyed a country that was on a successful course, and could have been a shining example of a vibrant and stable economy. We in a short few years dismantled the dream without any outside help. We did not need India or Israel, we did it ourselves, for we are our own worst enemies. That is the reason that the MQM should begin to assert itself as the coalition partner -that could make the difference. They have the organisation on ground in Karachi, to ensure that incidents like the stampede at Khori garden should not occur in the first place. Governance is a precious responsibility given by the voters that should not be taken lightly, and the MQM as a coalition partner must now move itself within the parliamentary bounds to bring the functioning of the provincial government at least to an acceptable level. KESC and the flour distribution are two of the major items, and if taken care of could bring major relief to the citizens of Karachi. This is owed by the MQM to Karachi, for this is the fount of their power. It is also the business hub of Pakistan, and must be protected and rebuilt. If Karachi continues to wallow in its misery, then we will have failed again.

The dynamic Mayor Kamal must understand that no number off flashy flyovers, or swish signal free corridors can compensate for poor city governance, leaving students to study by candle light, and old women to be crushed to death in a stampede while lining up for free flour.