I Am Karachi Peace Conference: Speakers ask for understanding of multipronged challenges

Karachi: Any serious effort for peace in Karachi requires an understanding of the multi-pronged challenges that characterize the city, which houses 20 million population of diverse economic, political and cultural backgrounds. Absence of local government system is the main cause of different problems in Karachi. Provision of social justice, education, health and livelihood opportunity can help solve the problems.

These views were expressed by the speakers at the first day of the “I Am Karachi Conference”, organized by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) at a local hotel Saturday.

The conference, titled “Exploring Peace and Reconciliation Alternatives: Towards a Karachi for All” sought to discuss the political, economic and cultural dynamics of the ever growing state of violence and conflict in the city.

Senior town planner and architect Arif Hasan; Senior economist and Advisor to the Chief Minister of Balochistan Dr. Kaiser Bengali; Minister Javed Jabbar, a former Information Minister; research and writer Gul Hassan Kalmati; Farhan Anwar, Executive Director of Sustainable Initiatives; Zahid Shahab Ahmed, Assistant Professor at Centre for International Peace and Stability, National University of Science and Technology (NUST); Prof. Fateh Muhammad Burfat, Director, Department of Criminology, University of Karachi; Tariq Binori, founder of SDPI and Professor at Utah University; Dr. Shahida Rehman, MNA; Ahmed Chenoi, Chairman of Citizens-Police Liaison Committee (CPLC); DIG Police of Karachi Abdul Khaliq Shaikh, reporter of Express Tribune Rabia Ali; Executive Director of PILER Karamat Ali were the main speakers, where as a large number of youth from different parts of Karachi attended the conference.

“We do not have a workable transport system in Karachi,” said Arif Hasan, who is founder Chairman of Urban Resource Centre. No subsidy is available for transporters in Karachi so there is meagre profit margin available for transports that is why they are not investing in this sector.

“I salute to transporters, who are running buses and minibuses despite many problems,” said Arif Hasan adding that people are mostly using motorcycle rickshaws (Chingchis) and motorbikes to solve their transport problems. There were 450,000 registered motorbikes in 2004, which have increased manifold and today there are 1.7 million in Karachi.

Housing is another main problem in Karachi. The land mafia is controlling the land of the city.

Arif Hasan said Karachi city can be divided into four separate cities. The first one is a commercial city, where mostly markets are located, the second is Inner City, where mostly Urdu speaking people are residing, but there are pockets of Sindhi speaking. The outer portion is the third city, where a sizeable population of Pathans is living and the fourth one is elite city in Defence Housing Authority. All the four cities have different livelihood patterns, transport systems and facilities in each city are different. Laws are also different, budgetary requirements are also different in each city of Karachi.

According to Arif Hasan, the family size in Karachi has increased, which is not because of increase in fertility rate but family size has increased as people try to live within family due to shortage of housing.

He regretted that public space is shrinking and playgrounds have vanished from the city. He said there is no representation of the citizens in the important public sector institutions like Sindh Building Control Authority, Sindh High Density Board and Sindh Special Development Board. The private sector developers are expected to provide education, health and guarantee livelihood.

Senior economist Dr. Kaiser Bengali said the conflict in Karachi is not a linguistic in nature, but it is a political conflict. At the time of independence, Karachi was a Sindhi speaking city, but after the partition, it became a Mohajir dominating city. But due to a large scale internal migration especially from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, the demographic situation of the city is changing rapidly. He gave statistics in which he said due to lack of livelihood opportunities a large number of KPK population is migrating to foreign countries and a portion is coming to Karachi.

If this situation continues, Dr. Bengali pointed out that Karachi city would be Pakhtoon dominated city by the year 2040. He termed it a ‘demographic earthquake.’ Not only Pakhtoons are coming in Karachi, but a large number of Siraiki speaking people are coming to Karachi because the big landlords are removing their peasants from the agriculture land. Half of the displaced Siraiki population comes to Karachi, he added.

Dr. Bengali suggested that the right to work and right to vote should be separated. There should be a system of naturalization under which voting right should be available for those who live in the city for larger period like 15 to 18 years.

Speaking on the occasion, PILER ED Karamat Ali said that Karachi is the city of workers, where labour from all areas of Pakistan used to come to earn their livelihood.

Dr. Tariq Binori, founder of SDPI and Professor at Utah University said without social justice you cannot achieve peace. “Make hope and history rhyme,” he asked the youth.

Dr. Zahid Shahab Ahmed, Assistant Professor at Centre for International Peace and Stability at National University of Sciences and Technology said the cause of violence is not poverty. Inequality and lack of justice are also reasons. Freedom from fear is essential for the youth. Psychological counseling of the youth should be part of the Pakistan’s Youth Policy.

He said tolerance word should be replaced with “respect” in our literature. Until you do not have information about others, you would not respect others.

Researcher Gul Hassan Kalmati speaking on “Karachi: A Workers Destination” said that Karachi has been developed by the workers from many areas including from Iran and different parts of India. Karachi Port and railway line were constructed by Balochs and Pathans. After the First World War people from Kutch, Kathiawar, Mumbai and Makran came in the city. Bohri and Khwaja people came in city and paid focus on education. Bohri people were mainly focusing on business.

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