Growing population pains

Karachi is big, it’s sprawling. The current population of 16 million will explode into a nasty figure of 27.5 million in 2020 and will double to 32 million by 2025; these facts were quoted by the Karachi Strategic Master Plan (KSMP) 2020.

These figures may baffle us with numbers, the 1998 census likes for us to believe that between one to two million aliens from Afghanistan and Srilanka, who inhabit the kutchi abaadis are no threat at all. Yet there are problems that are rampant. Accommodation is one of the biggest problems that this city government has to face. The living conditions are deplorable. Inadequate shelter, food and sanitation have concocted many diseases. What happens when kutchi abaadis spring up? They disrupt the infrastructure of a certain locality. What happens when you legalize foreigners, allocate plots/housing to remove the existing kutchi abaadis? More pop up.
It is very easy to feel sorry for the residents of such shanty towns, for they certainly have guts to reside in abject conditions. A case study of a particular woman who works as domestic help shows what sometimes does happen, when government is being fair. X, was a resident of Zia-ul -haq Colony, area that is currently Lyari Expressway. She lived in a house that was not hers. When Zia-ul-haq Colony was razed to build the great Expressway, she and other squatters, were allocated plots near Super Highway, and 50,000 rupees each, to build the houses. The other half of the story is predictable. A land mafia emerged, amongst their own kind, falsely occupied two to three plots each, some deserving people were rendered homeless and moved out into other kutchi abaadis, meanwhile a few rented their own homes and occupied the their previous status of squatting. This just goes on to prove that welcoming foreigners into this city is great, but at the cost of further deteriorating it’s mock infrastructure?

7 Comments so far

  1. Arsalaan Haleem (unregistered) on July 10th, 2007 @ 11:32 pm

    Henna, please do not take this the wrong way, but you need to read, and read carefully what you write.

    Firstly, this sentence is plain, simple wrong: “These figures may baffle us with numbers”. You may either use ‘figures’ or ‘numbers’. You just cannot use both words as they mean the same thing.

    Secondly, this sentence is also wrong: “two million aliens from Afghanistan and Srilanka”. As far as I know, that Afghanistan and Sri Lanka are populated with Afghanis and Sri Lankans respectively. And these are earthlings and not some aliens from outer space.

    The word ‘aliens’ is used to denote those whose origin is not sure/confirmed. Even if a specie arrives from Mars tomorrow, then it will be caller a Martian and not an alien as its origin will be known.

    I hope that this clarfies certain misconceptions.

  2. Anon. (unregistered) on July 10th, 2007 @ 11:50 pm

    Aside from the corrections by Professor Arsalaan, the article sheds light on a more important issue that is faced many all metropolitian cities like ours.

    I dont see a short term solution to this problem other than better border control. Any housing would have to come from charity because i can’t see how the kaachi abadi people can afford it.

    What can be the solution??

  3. ALIEN (unregistered) on July 10th, 2007 @ 11:54 pm


  4. misanthrope (unregistered) on July 11th, 2007 @ 1:22 am

    This post is typical of the latent racism that is such a major feature of our society. While the issue of rapid urban growth, and the issue of lack of social services are both important, the way this article is written is frankly disgusting.

    First of all using the term ‘threat’ to describe Afghans and Sri Lankan immigrants is typical of the scaremongering of racists throughout the world. It presents Afghans and Sri Lankans as a “threat” to “us” Pakistanis. Particularly when the author immediately follows this by saying that “there are problems that are rampant.” This implies that the the problems are created by the immigrants, when one has only to look at her list of problems (poor housing, poor sanitation, etc.) which actually shows that the immigrants are the victims of these problems more than anyone else.

    “What happens when you legalize foreigners, allocate plots/housing to remove the existing kutchi abaadis? More pop up.” The author writes. First of all, much of the population inflow into Karachi in the past few years is from interior Sindh, Baluchistan, Punjab and NWFP. “Afghanis” (many of whom were born and have lived their whole lives in Pakistan) are not a significant factor in growing urbanisation in the last 10 years. The Sri Lankan hordes seem to be a product of the author’s imagination. Also, what is the learned author suggesting here? That we should not do anything for people living in Kutchi abadis? That we should not try to help the poor simply because more will “pop up”?

    The case of Lyari Expressway is informative and notorious. Almost all development experts, urban planners, social workers etc. were against the plan, because it displaced thousands of people, and then built a giant, costly expressway through the middle of the city. They gave the examples of several mega-cities where expressways built in the middle of the city in the 70s and 80s are now being shut down because of the impact of environment, safety and congestion; going for the plan of circular roads to move heavy traffic outside the urban centre (Such as M25 in London).

    This advice was ignored. The “compensation” was measly, given in irregular instalments, often not given at all, and the plots allocated were often out in the desert where there was no water source, no electricity, no phone lines, no public transport access. Even if these people somehow built a house to live in there, how would they get to work?

    Of course for some of them this problem was solved since to build the Lyari Expressway, numerous factories, shops, schools, clinics, Church and mosques were demolished.

    Funnily enough the mullahs didn’t complain too much about these mosque demolitions – its only illegally built mosques they seem to care about. Finally keep in mind, this displaced not just Afghans but Pakistanis of different religious and ethnic denominations.

    In fact a good deal of the problems that kutchi abaadi dwellers face comes from official neglect and the sanctimonious attitudes of people like the author of this post. If I can quote Tasnim Siddiqi who is DG Katchi Abadi Authority and one of Pakistan’s only winners of the Ramon Magsaysay Award (Asia’s Nobel Prize):

    ‘”Contrary to common perception,” he says, “katchi abadi dwellers are neither criminals nor drug pushers, pimps, illegal immigrants, terrorists or leftwing revolutionaries. They are ordinary, law-abiding simple folks, eking out an existence.” What they need, he insists, is less prejudice from the establishment, fewer official obstacles to getting on with their lives and much more of the kind of assistance that will allow them to help themselves.’

    Thats a quote from this article which I suggest you have a look at so that you can write about Karachi’s social issues with greater insight.

  5. mansoor (unregistered) on July 11th, 2007 @ 6:17 pm

    like it or not.. these ‘alien’ population is what allows the people of affluent neighborhoods keep their lavish lifestyle, employing servant upon servant to satisfy every need.

    life would’ve been very different in the city had people actually had to work to keep their houses clean and life orderly instead of sittin around ordering everyone around.

  6. Salman A. (unregistered) on July 11th, 2007 @ 7:03 pm

    o bhai, you made more “angraizi ki galti” in your comments than the author… first fix them and post a corrected version…..LOL..

    also, your definition of ‘alien’ is partially correct.. one word could have multiple meanings..

    no offense, but I thought i should tell you that :)

  7. Petarian_88 (unregistered) on July 15th, 2007 @ 1:23 am

    missing the point is an art…..:))

    pls forget the spelling/grammer mistakes and say something about the point raised!

    if these ‘Aliens’ were not around then life would not be that easy!

    they are the cheap labour we depend upon.

    ever thought how the hell more then a million illegal aliens cross over to the USA from Mexico. if uncle sam wants to close the gaps in his border, he can do it easily. the reality is their economy needs cheap labour to sustain itself, that is why they chose to look the other way.

    the same is true for us, at least to some extent!

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