Bunder road (M A Jinnah Road) of Karachi has witnessed days when it was washed with water. The tale is as old as 1960s. Now, Karachiites, struggling on crowded, littered and encroached roads, dream of history repeating itself. Still the most populous metropolis of Pakistan as per Census 2017, Karachi is often nicked as Kachra-chi in news. Twenty people sit in National Assembly and 42 in Provincial Assembly as representatives of Karachi. With most of electable from Karachi, MQM claim to be the voice of the city.
Launched in Karachi and being staunched vocal advocate of Karachiites, Muttahida Qaumi Movement attributes the city as its stronghold. That is why when parties kicked off campaign for local bodies elections in 2015, MQM was the one making big claims of turning the fate of Karachi.
“After elections of 5 Dec, Karachi would be transformed into cleanest city of Asia”, chanted Farooq Sattar, the then convener of MQM, addressing a huge corner meeting at Burns road during campaign.
His statement was followed by unimpeded applause. Paris of Asia and City of Lights were also among such fancy claims those Karachiites have heard in the past.
Over 1,500 elected members from six districts sworn in as local bodies’ representatives.
However, MQM bagged convincing victory in Local Bodies Elections and Waseem Akhtar was nominated as Mayor. Hopes sustained expectations of voters. They started counting days for words becoming reality and their elected mayor will hold the keys of Karachi. But before the moment came, Waseem Akhtar was imprisoned in facilitating terrorists and hate speech cases. Claims of making Karachi cleanest city of Asia were fresh in the minds of citizens then.
City was without mayor even after eight months of local bodies’ elections and there came 22nd August 2017. Founder MQM’s anti Pakistan speech from London via telephone link in hunger strike camp at Karachi Press Club erupted riots. It started at KPC but it halted at split of 35 years old affiliations. The other morning, MQM showed up as MQM Pakistan. Farooq Sattar took over as party head. Minus one formula was in action or had to be implemented, finally!
Loyalties were doubted all around the political party. Crackdown against MQM left its party offices sealed and workers arrested. Behind the bars, Waseem Akhtar raised the slogan of Pakistan Zindabad and assured his affiliation with MQM Pakistan and not with London. Ironic fact is that he was the choice of London from MQM founder. While MQM was strangled in its local affairs, city - they claim to own - was suffocating.
Waseem Akhtar’s arrival from Central Jail to Polo Ground for oath taking was also one-of-its-own-kind event. Karachi has got its custodians after eight years. Last was Mustafa Kamal, then MQM mayor and now a rebel.
"I am not a mayor of MQM. I will work for Karachi, I am Karachi's mayor," said Waseem Akhtar in his speech. “We know Karachi is plagued by a number of issues. These problems are our problems," assured newly elected Mayor.
He went to the extent and requested chief minister Sindh to provide him an office within the premises of his prison so that he could run city's affairs from behind the bars.
With an aim to give the city a better look, Mayor Karachi Wasim Akhtar kicked off a 100-day cleanliness campaign a month after his acquittal. No miracle happened and situation remained the same. Facing criticism, MQM Pak had to clarify that drive was functional only if MQM wins UCs.
Meanwhile, Karachi was struck by two heavy rainfall spells. At both times, main arteries of city were inundated and downtowns sank. Mayor Karachi accused Sindh Government of not giving him adequate funds. On the other hand, Sindh Government alleged Local Government setup of lacking abilities to cope up with challenges. Tug of war between Metropolitan Corporation and Provincial Government continued as people were left at the mercy of events.
MQM did not secure victory from any other district as convincing as from District Central. The largest district of Karachi has 51 union committees. MQM was able to secure 50 UCs from district. Nominated Chairman District Central Rehan Hashmi vowed to make district central a model district.
“This is not district central, this is district dust,” said Waqar, resident of Rizvia Society, “mechanism of lifting garbage is inefficient. Air is heavy with dust and dirt,” he continued.
“Who do we belong to? MQM Pakistan whom we voted for? Or PPP, who has its Chief Minister in Sindh? Where do we lodge our complaints?” lamented an elderly woman, dweller of New Karachi, UP Morr.
Irritated by sewerage water stagnant in front of their doors and agitated by shortage of fresh water, people of North Karachi Sector 11-E went a step ahead. They hanged “missing” banners on streets of their representatives in assembly.
Banners read, “Dear MNA, MPA and District Chairman give us your time when found. Our issues need to be addressed.”
Concerned by deviating public opinion from its base (district central) MQM Pakistan’s leadership asked its local bodies representatives to submit performance report. According to reliable sources it was found that tenders in District Central were not given to competent ones. Chairman and Vice Chairman faced the music in internal meeting of party and warned of losing their posts in case negligence is found.
Annoyed by poor performance, MQM Pakistan has decided to give a tender for centralized collection of garbage rather UC-wise collection. It is already implemented in other districts. Sindh government has signed a Rs. 2 billion contract with a Chinese company for solid waste collection.
Karachiites recall the vows and promises made at the time of LB elections. Eyes of voters wander around and settle in despair. Their eyebrows turn white from black while they are traveling on roads. There was nothing at the other side of their hopes.