Huge challenges ahead for future city government



After the competition of third and final phase of local government elections, the voters have delivered their verdict regarding the fate of Karachi and now they expect the future city government to deliver. However, considering the plethora of problems faced by the city, the future city rulers have an uphill task.

The biggest challenge for the city government would be to streamline public transport sector of Karachi. Without modernising public transport sector, it would be very difficult for the city to prosper. Presently, the public transport sector of Karachi is based on old minibuses discarded by Peshawar after expiry of their useful engine life. It is a sorry state of affairs to see Karachiites travelling on the rooftops of junk minibuses risking their lives. This sort of situation is hard to imagine in a modern urban city.

The first task before the newly-minted city government would be to ban public transport buses that have expired their useful engine life. The minibuses and coaches must be replaced with wide bodied buses. The owners of minibuses and coaches could be offered new route permits for wide bodied buses and other incentives under the law.

The city government is an important stakeholder in the revival of Karachi Circular Railway (KCR). This lingering project must be repaired and run on urgent basis, preferably by the traders of Karachi. The Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KCCI) has already offered its services to own and run the public interest projects in Karachi and also to improve the infrastructure of the city. Traders have the ability to run city uplift projects successfully and the cities of Faislabad and Sialkot have explored this avenue with highly encouraging results. The traders, businessmen and industrialists of Karachi should be provided a chance to serve their city and its residents.

Housing sector needs a serious focus of the future city government. One of the main causes of crime in Karachi is the activities of land mafia. The city needs dozens of new housing projects. In the past, the now defunct DKA used to establish housing schemes in the metropolis and the practice should continue.

Law and order, especially, solid steps against street crime are necessary for Karachi. While the Karachi operation needs to continue with full force, it is also important to revamp Karachi police on modern line. For the city to flourish, Karachi needs to adopt the concept of total war on crime. The city also needs police force capable of tackling urban crimes.

Education and healthcare must not be ignored. It is urgently needed to at least double the admissions in institutes like Karachi University, NED University of Engineering and Technology and Dow University of Health Sciences. These institutes have the capacity to do so and it would help the city develop technical expertise for taking the financial hub of the country to the next level. The city also needs at least two dozen technical colleges and several modern technical universities to train millions of unskilled youth of the city.

Three major city hospitals, Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Center (JPMC), Civil Hospital Karachi (CHK) and Abbasi Shaheed Hospital (ASH) have the potential to double their bed capacity. The provincial government would have to take the initiative in this regard. Karachi needs at least one modern hospital equipped with trauma and emergency services in each of its towns.

The poor road and drainage infrastructure is a shame for an urban city like Karachi, which should be come under the radar of the coming city government. Failed projects like Cogen need to be revived and implemented. The ongoing mega projects of water supply and drainage disposal need to be completed in a timely manner.

Tourism is the badly ignored sector of Karachi. Beautiful beaches of the city are in very poor shape. The city has a lot of colors and sounds to attract local and foreign tourists. Historical Chowkundi graveyard is being grabbed by land mafia. It is a major heritage site and a tourist attraction which should be saved, preserved and developed on modern lines including establishing a Karachi history museum there.

The city stands to generate billions of rupees if its neglected tourist sector is given serious attention. Even, if the new city government followed the example of Lahore and introduced a dozen or so double-decker tourist buses for sightseeing, it could boost local tourism.

It is not clear if the city government is going to be effective at all given the lack of powers of the local government representatives, but Karachiites have given a strong mandate to Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) and the city itself needs urgent improvement in civic amenities. Karachiites would be hoping for a new era of progress and peace for their city.