Karachi : Its Progress, 7 years down the road

Progress is a difficult word to explain. How do we define “progress”? In individual lives & collectively we often say we are progressing if our living standard has improved. We measure it in economic terms to put it in simple words. Social progress is important to us & moral progress is controversial as well. The so-called enlighted moderation is progress for few & opposite for others because it’s the definition, again, on which there is a difference.

Having been in love with this city I am keen to know its status, so I keep on discussing with friends its status time to time. Its 7 years now to this new setup. My city has seen ups & downs & will see more in coming years. Is it ready in every aspect to stay steady? It’s difficult for one individual to extract a conclusion himself so known people, newspapers & media must be referred to, to see the overall picture. Personally known people are divided on this subject & so is media, the powerful columnist in newspapers, though majority says we are not progressing, according to theirs & not government’s definition of progress. As our media doesn’t follow events properly, whenever you surf channels it becomes really difficult to conclude if we are moving forward or going backward as we have all sorts of news coming from everywhere.

So what is really the way to find if our city is progressing? Should we judge it from street crimes or corruption or education or flyovers or car imports or mobiles sold or from projects like Emmar where progress for few is destruction for others as the gov. has turned a blind eye on grounds & parks & whatever there was/is it’s in absolute dismal condition. Sports at national level is a reflection of what’s happening at lower level. Youth is more into cigarette & anti social activities than games & sports or studies or healthy activities. Wasting time with mobile instead of going to a playground is taking over. I remember very well how my dad was severe on education but even he seeing me too much (or acting such lolz) into books ask me to go out, play & relax. I used to go to a park in Gulshan to relax as it was greener, beautiful & clean then & now it’s become a desert with filth everywhere.

After decades of orphanage attitude from Islamabad, many think progress is being made these days. Roads are being constructed, which was supposed to be a basic requirement/duty at first place. Flyovers are being constructed. Billions are being pumped in. Law & order, especially sectarian, after the Nishtar Park incident last year, at bigger level is under control.

Interestingly few ground facts have also changed. House, electricity & water used to be everyone’s issue few years back but thanks to impossible to touch land & house prices, generators & plastic filtered water they have become issue for the less deprived only, generally. Also, the definition of street crime is car & mobile theft & not the normal one. Media thinks that male actor coming close to kiss a gul on cheeks (GEO) or actually hugging (GEO) & under 18 guls & guys dancing together is enlightenment or comments like if Aishwarya wear less cloths she would look good (AAJ TV, AAJ entertainment tonight). Also, there is no denying that media is presenting programs where at least, once non debatable topics are being discussed, social to religious, if not opening minds. We have no more that PTV to control our minds. Events are covered/ tried to cover in best possible manner putting a fair perspective. At KMB you will get a similar contradictory picture. May be we are progressing in few areas (broader economic terms, development, media, investment & projects, ending terrorism) & going backward in other ways (Inflation, health & education specially, water, electricity, transport, Human rights, adding extremism).

Here is my personal opinion. Economic progress is positive with benefits reaching only 10-15 percent of Karachiites. The so called “trickling down” effect is too slow & the momentum this city is growing in population, few including me fear it may never reach the bottom. But let’s hope, the only tool we have. Social/Moral progress is negative & scattered in all sections of society. Following is what few had to say on Karachi’s last 7 years.

A colleague: “I feel things have improved, roads are being constructed. I won’t have problems with my car now, especially maintenance. Got a good job. But younger brother who used to top when he was in school is into bad habits now like cigarette, college politics, wasting time without any purpose, probably spoiled because of failing to get into top college”

A Student: “7 years ago, I really didn’t care about the city. I used to go from school to home and home to school which was just 10 min drive but at least commuting back then was easier, I felt a lack of good fun places and abhi bhi, I think it has become worse, huge population increase thanks to migration which hasn’t been managed properly. I may sound cynical but nothing has improved, road networks, education, poverty everything has worsened”

A driver: mai teen guna kamaraha hun kuch saal pehlay se magar faida kia jab mehengai dus guna badh gai hai toh. Mai ne aik bachay ko school se uthva dia hai fees ki waja se. kuch behtari hui hai magar uuper walun ke liye

A business man: “Absolutely things have improved. Making money many times than I used to 7 years back. Tax relaxations & friendly business policy has improved things for me. I can invest more now, though not planned yet”.

Young professional: “karsaz flyover is built and opened, nazimabad fly over is built and opened, gareebabad and liaqatbad is about to complete,IT Tower and Elevated expressway would be inaugrated next month, hmmm baki dont know….Milk is selling at old price…dont know the completion date of MCB tower, so many parks in those 7 years, development going on every where, kpt port fountain”

Is Karachi moving forward? It’s still unclear but one thing is clear, for sure. Had we still had the previous gov.’s (1988 – 2000’s) at the top we would sure plunge into a chaos. That’s crystal clear though there is no way to prove it. I have just assumed that considering the tough times we had been in all these years.

14 Comments so far

  1. mansoor (unregistered) on January 22nd, 2007 @ 11:03 am

    good post MB. it is indeed very hard to qualify progress. One thing i know, its much more expensive to maintain a ‘standard of living’ nowadays than it was a couple years back. But then, thats the story i always heard from my elders “humaray zamanay mein XX rupay mein ye cheez milte thee” and so on.. prices do rise, owning more so the value of our currency maybe?

    My personal view is that Karachi has definitely come a lot further than in the last 7 than before, given economic activity everywhere. Some will point out that is may be an illusion, and that ground realities suck, but then again, im in the habit of looking at a glass half full :P


  2. Sufi (unregistered) on January 22nd, 2007 @ 11:22 am

    mb, I like your post.
    for all the road developments, commission culture abhi bhi hai bas ab tender khulta hi itna mehnga hai kay sab ka paitt bharr jata hai aur kaam bhi munasib ho jata hai.
    inflation, mehngaii bohat ho gayee hai. petrol is the main reason. fuel prices in the US are around $ 2.3 a gallon (approximately 36/37 Rs a liter). We all know the differences in per capita income of both the countries.. So that is the main cause of mehengaii.. I wonder if we have a solution.

    chhota bhai, yaar jis ko ghalat kaam karna hai, woh 1998 mein bhi karta tha aur jiss ko nahi karna woh aaj bhi nahi kar raha..

    business, government has failed to increase the exports of all major specialised products of the country. biggest example is the leather industry, its in ruins. mulk kay under ki tijarat is very good. consumers have more choices in wireless communication and automobile industry. high speed internet is still a dream. outsourcing industry is struggling.

    education, a bipolar society *as mentioned in earlier posts* .. there are people who speak english and those who don’t and those who do speak usually dictate those who don’t. education is a business one of the best (food industry is second best)..

    will it ever be perfect? no
    will we ever have sufficient power (bijli)? no
    will road network improve? perhaps yes
    will we have enough jobs? Yes (for those who have it in them)
    will corruption end? definitely no
    will commission culture end? unlikely
    will khaanchay baazi end? haha no
    will we stop complaining? absolutely no.


  3. Arsalaan Haleem (unregistered) on January 22nd, 2007 @ 12:15 pm

    We definitely have progressed from the ill-fated decade of 1988-1999.

    In a nutshell, I think that Karachi has seen a NET Gain, in terms of progress and development.


  4. h (unregistered) on January 22nd, 2007 @ 3:51 pm

    chiraghoon kay badlay makaan jal rahay hain
    naya hay zamana naee roshni hay

    yeh kaisee hawaaye taraqee chali hay
    diyay to diyay dil bujhay ja rahay hain

    khumar barabankvi


  5. MB (unregistered) on January 22nd, 2007 @ 3:54 pm

    Ahhh…. “khumar barabankvi”…
    Who else it could be….
    Love his poetry, absolutely fantastic at times


  6. Concerned (unregistered) on January 22nd, 2007 @ 5:36 pm

    MB good post. One more thing that has improved but you havent mentioned is that most people now actualy care about where things are going and look forward to tomorrow. Back in the 90s no one really cared and it was the same thing day in day out. Thing were just getting worse with no hope.

    Am I the only one who feels this way or do you guys agree?


  7. Arsalaan Haleem (unregistered) on January 22nd, 2007 @ 5:51 pm

    Concerned, I wholeheartedly agree with you.


  8. Asad (unregistered) on January 22nd, 2007 @ 6:55 pm

    Some one mentioned the ill-fated 1988-1999 era. Well that was the time when I was growing up. I did my matric in 1991. So you can figure out that all my formative years fell into that era. Curfews, Strikes,firing, killings and more. That was it. I think most people of my generation or around it who grew in that phase are psychologically scarred. I can bet that sound of klashinkov is still some where in our subconciousness. That was a period when many people decided to leave the beloved city for good. Many settled in Canada, some went to USA or moved to some other part of country. Growing up in that era was not easy. Anyways we Karachites pulled through that ordeal and now we are talking about progress. I salute the courage of the people of this City. Long live Karachi!! Long live Pakistan!!!


  9. SK (unregistered) on January 23rd, 2007 @ 12:19 am

    Good Post MB, but there are a few things that have plunged down, and they are social, moral, and ethical values among the citizens.

    Now no one cares whether he’s violating a traffic signal. About 8 years ago I still remember people stopping at traffic signals and waiting for it to open, and giving way to others in case the signal is not functioning. Bribery has become the order of the day, motorists prefer to give 50-100 rupees (as far as my knowledge is concerned) to officers if they are stopped instead of paying a fine of 200 rupees.

    Even the corporate world has been deprived of ethics just to win a rat race for getting the most contracts/accounts from their competitors. Healthy competition is something that is missing on part of our corporates.

    Students indulging into adulterated “entertainment” thanks to our cable operators and our communications ministry.

    All in all, Karachi on one hand has gained a lot in terms of economic growth but have adopted the practice of violating social, moral and ethical values.


  10. Adnan Siddiqi (unregistered) on January 23rd, 2007 @ 1:39 am

    A good start MB, very well said. I don’t believe constructing flyovers,roads etc can make a city progressive. kia faida aysa roads waghaira ka jahan ek banda paan k peek ya kachra daal day. An organised old infrastructure is much better than unorganized new systemm.


    Back in the 90s no one really cared and it was the same thing day in day out.

    @Concerned:I don’t know what made you to say this because unlike past people are more careless for certain matters. Maybe you like to elaborate it?

    Today life is more busy and people are more unorganized and indisciplined than past. Traffic jams,violating laws are few examples. People used to talk in past as well it’s just media was not so common like today and it’s a global change not a nation wide.

    @asad: 100% agrred with you that growing up in early/mid 90s was not easy for us. I have also experienced several scary things specially narrow escape from death while I was in 2nd year is still unforgettable for me. I used to be in Nazimabad at that time. Anyways I don’t think people are still living in past as today we are more worried about mobile/car snatching,inflation etc. Yes people are enjoying luxurious life but they’re not satisfied but since we ourselves have chosen the path of capitalism so we can’t even blame to others.


    I salute the courage of the people of this City.

    waqi mey yar,its amazing and I don’t understand what made them so powerful that they go thru everything silently. Maybe it’s some kind of beyhisi. *shrug*


  11. ash (unregistered) on January 23rd, 2007 @ 2:09 am

    i am completely on the same page as asad and concerned and i agree with adnan too i think beyhisi is the best word.


  12. Asad (unregistered) on January 23rd, 2007 @ 3:46 am

    Bey-hisi? Ranj ka khoogar ho insaan to mit jata hai ranj….mushkilia itnee paree mujh pai kai asaan ho gaieen-Ghalib

    I dont think so its baihisee…Karachi people are one of the most caring people. Granted we have our own weaknesses-one being interfering in every ones matter. But the most important quality of karachi walas is their love for Pakistan and their faith. Love for our City. I think thats what kept us going and God Willing will make us continue this Journey. A journey of love,patience and ultimately success.


  13. abdullah (unregistered) on January 23rd, 2007 @ 4:32 am

    well, like people said before it all depends on your definition of progress. From a capitalist, western/secular point of view we have progressed because now we have better infrastructure and more technological advancement. However, from any other point of view we have gotten far worse. The little morals that were prevelant in our city at one point have now been abolished. Immodesty is increasing which is quite obvious on TV and public places. Respect for law has gone further down and people can do anything they want to. The future also looks bleak because the youth are showing no inclination towards Islam and their values are quite messed up.

    But, I’m not a pessimist. Economic and social progress are both neccesary. The difference between them is that economic progress is in the hands of a few people whereas social progress can take place at the individual level. Right now, after a long time of waiting, we finally have some economic progress. Therefore, if we as individuals strive towards social improvement, then we will have both. This will make our city the greatest in the eyes of people who are not Karachiites. :)


  14. Adnan Siddiqi (unregistered) on January 23rd, 2007 @ 9:54 am

    Asad:Bhai kia shair mara hay aap nay. I have to agree with you. You actually explained “beyhisi”. which I didn’t mean to equare as “Selfishness”.

    When we citizens are bombared by things like heavy utility bills,bribes to get jobs for our sons/brothers,no respect by others,KESC etc have made us so occupied that our mind doesn’t allow us to think something else. For me,it’s a war by our oponents, such wars are more harmful than traditional wars because in this war the whole nation suffers rather army only.



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