Tribute to Mustafa Kamal…
Disclaimer: This post is not politically motivated. Only inspired by some of my observations during an aimless drive around the city.
You gotta admit. Karachi has been transformed over the past six years. I remember Karachi in 2001 when I left for my hiatus abroad. It used to be a stinking nightmare. Buses, rickshaws and cars honked with frustration in long queues of traffic jams. Pollution hung like a pall in the sky with barely any vegetation in the city. Roads were broken and potholed in all areas. Curbs and footpaths were non-existent or left in ruins. Sewerage water overflowed in a majority of the neighbourhoods. Water was in short supply and tankers used to ply everywhere. Just thinking of those frustrating times is enough to give one a headache.
Contrast that image to now. Traffic flows freely in most areas thanks to signal-free corridors. A lot of major arteries of the city have been re-carpeted… something that had not been carried out in the city for decades. Most of the roads and streets look defined now, with properly constructed curbsides and footpaths. The sewerage system of the city has been fixed in a majority of areas and you dont find overflowing gutters everywhere anymore. A lot of trees have been planted in the city and amenity plots that used to be garbage dumps have been converted into parks. The credit for this vision and for the transformation of this city from an urban disaster to a strident megapolis can largely go to one man: Mustafa Kamal.
And this was no small work. Karachi had been a neglected city for decades. I remember road carpeting once being carried out when I was a small kid during the days of Zia-ul-Haq, but the subsequent democratic governments of Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto made sure that they did not invest a single penny into the largest city of the country. It was shamefully neglected for a long period of time. Nevertheless, people still came to this city from all parts of Pakistan to make money (being the economic factory that Karachi is). By the time the Musharraf government came to power the city’s infrastructure was crumbling apart under the tremendous strain of its population.
An earlier Nazim (was it Naimatullah?) was elected under the local governments system who did start some repair work for the city, however for the majority of the work that has been done for the city the credit solidly rests on Mustafa Kamal. In the effort to transform this city into a habitable and more contemporary metropolis, Mustafa has shown great vision which most others would have been lacking. And he seems to have his working ethic in the right place. Actually doing something makes you more deserving of credit than merely talking about it and he has really done something for this city.
If I start counting all the improvements that have been made over the past years of his government, I could use up a whole page. However merely a drive down some older localities gives you an idea of the tremendous improvement that can be observed in the city’s built environment. The PECHS to NIPA area once used to be an eyesore. Now the University Road is en route to becoming a beautiful signal free corridor with trees planted on both sides. Land values in the area are also becoming much better. Clifton Kothari Parade used to be Funland, and drug-addict-land surrounded by a barren desert. Now it proudly boasts one of the most historic achievements of Mustafa Kamal – the Bin Qasim park, which will be an iconic park for Karachi for generations. Sewerage lines of the city, laid down in the British times have been completely re-constructed. I. I. Chundrigar road and countless other roads in the city have been repaired. A traffic video monitoring system is now in place. In short, so much work has been carried out in a few years that the city is on its way to making amends for all the neglect that came its way in the previous years.
What is the point behind this post? Very simple. We in this country are quick to point fingers and take away credit. Appreciation, however, is a little hard to come by. A lot of people commenting on this post will also be wagging their heads in the negative, putting forward one conspiracy theory over the other. But the facts speak for themselves. The city is now on the path to progress and the change over the last few years has been significant. If countries abroad can be more forward than us in naming Mustafa Kamal as an exemplary mayor and nominating Karachi as an exemplary city, why should we shy away from some due appreciation? Bravo Mr. Nazim!