Tariq Road – Once at the fore, but not anymore?
What is the ultimate Karachi shopping experience? Some say Park Towers…. No. The Forum? Not really. Those places are too small to be worthy of being named the “Ultimate”. Once upon a time however, it used to be the Saddar area. Most especially, the Elphinstone Street (current Zaib-un-Nissa street) where you would find most upmarket and good shopping outlets in Karachi. But that was also the days of yore. For our current day and the recent past, the reigning position has consistently been occupied by the Tariq Road. This has most definitely been a go-to place for all sorts of families and all sorts of people to buy all sorts of things apparel related. For easily about two decades Tariq road has occupied the top spot on the Karachi shopping scene. And very rightly so. It is a bazaar-cum-market-cum-mall where you can find the best deals, the best bargains, the most variety and the most seasoned material. Could you say its Karachi’s Oxford Street or İstiklal Avenue? ummmm……
Nah, I wouldn’t really say that. Its much too dirty and overcrowded to be compared to elegant places like those. If I get any foreign visitors, I will definitely keep them the hell away from Tariq Road. So why has it really become like that? I remember when I was young, the name Tariq road used to bring to mind images of a very lively shopping scene. Now when I think of it, I only think of horrible traffic jams, broken roads, pollution, noise, and wayy too many people with nowhere to move.
I think our city government really forgot about this golden road. Oft trodden, but now forgotten. In the span of the past few years, the CDGK has carried out remarkable development activity in Karachi – something no other government could ever achieve – however it really needs to be reminded about the plight of this road before the current setup gets brushed aside and somebody incompetent ends up taking its place. There is much to be fixed here, and some of it can easily be done. However once done, it will make the shopping experience at Tariq road something to talk about once again. Here are a few suggested improvements:
- Re-carpet the entire stretch of the road. The current road condition is very grating. The older carpeting had been greatly destroyed. There are holes, rubbly stretches, places to test your off-roading skills etc. all to be found in close vicinity of each other. Re-carpeting will make the road more drivable, pleasant, and will ease the traffic jams a little. And no, patch fixing will not help.
- Make proper high sidewalks on both sides of the road, and repair the median. This is essential as both are broken beyond recognition, and both are in urgent need of repair. In the case of sidewalks, I think it would be almost a first time construction other than the sidewalks created by the mall builders themselves.
- Build big parking plazas on the back streets of every block, and prohibit parking on the main road. Now this is a very lofty aim and I think it will not be accomplished easily – if ever. It must also be made obligatory for every new building / mall to construct underground or above ground parking floors to accomodate the amount of cars they aim to attract. For shopkeepers and shoppers alike. They should be allowed to charge for it so they can recover their building expenses.
- Make lots of pedestrian bridges along the whole stretch of the road, 2-3 per block, and screen off pedestrian use of the main road using decorated iron grills.
- Make sidewalk zones where street vendors can display their wares easily and away from obstruction. However, the street vendors should be allowed to stay at Tariq road to maintain its ambience.
- Have a proper garbage collection system set up. (— well actually all of Karachi would benefit from that).
Now I may be dreaming here with making all these extraordinarily wonderful suggestions, however due to the excellent performance of CDGK over the past few years, I am pretty sure it can accomplish this if it sets its mind on the task. Maybe send a link to Mustafa Kamal? I am sure however, that once this work is accomplished, this street will once again be able to regain the reigns of the Karachi shopping experience.