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September 25, 2017

Who’s to blame for Malir district’s impassable roads?


September 25, 2017

Barring the newly built National Highway, almost all the busy thoroughfares and internal roads in the jurisdiction of the Malir District Municipal Corporation (DMC) have been ruined or developed craters and trenches following the recent rains, causing lingering traffic jams and damaging vehicles.

Most of the roads and streets in Malir’s municipal limits are badly broken and have become impassable, awaiting repairs since several years. However, the most terrible condition is that of 8000 Road, from Murtaza Chowrangi to Dawood Chowrangi, an important thoroughfare connecting heavy and freight traffic from the Karachi port to the Landhi Industrial Area, Port Qasim and the National Highway.

The Sindh government had built a portion of the road a few months ago, and after his appointment, Chief Minister Syed Murad Ali Shah had paid a visit to review it construction. Hardly two months later, large cracks and potholes appeared in both tracks of the road, and the recent rains have further deteriorated the situation.

Similar is the condition of another portion of the road that starts from Dawood Chowrangi and ends at Younas Chowrangi, where the office of the Malir DMC is located and where elected representatives, including the district chairman, work. A major portion of the Mehran Highway from Hospital Chowrangi to Cattle Colony is also badly damaged.

Most of the roads in the district are in such a bad shape that commuters are forced to either drive in a zigzag manner or apply brakes frequently to save their vehicles from falling into the deep ditches.

The situation not only slows down the traffic but also damages the vehicles. Every day, six to eight heavily loaded trucks and cars break their axles and shock absorbers or overturn because of the ditches as deep as three feet.

“I have been driving my truck from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, but did not see such ruined roads anywhere else on the entire route,” a truck driver whose vehicle’s axles were broken told The News. A few yards away, a freight truck could be seen lying on its side.

Commuters, especially labourers working in the Landhi and Korangi industrial areas, suffer the most because they are forced to wait for hours in snarls-up caused by the craters in the roads.

Civil society organisations and political parties regularly voice their concerns on the dismal condition of the roads in the Malir DMC limits, holding the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) responsible, as it is in power in Sindh as well as District Malir.

Recently, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and the Jamaat-e-Islami organised protest rallies over non-construction of roads in the district. The Landhi Association of Trade & Industry has also urged the authorities several times to repair the roads in the area.

Inayat Khattak, a key PTI leader in Malir, said Karachi’s residents paid hefty vehicle taxes, and having better roads was among their fundamental rights. “Lower-income neighbourhoods in the Landhi Industrial Area were first neglected by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) during their mayorship, and now the PPP has been punishing the locals for not voting for them in the general and local government elections.”

Mufti Ziaul Islam Tikravi, a social activist, said the locals had been suffering for the past two years because of non-construction of roads. “They are now tired of the government’s false promises, especially that of CM Shah. The excessive delays in repairing the roads have even forced a number of families to move out.”

Some locals believe that Malir DMC Chairman Jan Muhammad Baloch focuses only on Baloch-dominated villages in the district when it comes to spending funds and providing basic facilities.

A PPP leader in the PS-128 (Karachi-XL) constituency, which includes mostly Pashtun-populated UCs of the Landhi Industrial Area, also admitted that the Malir DMC leadership had adopted a stepmotherly approach for non-Baloch localities, which lagged behind as regards development. “The PPP is a federal party, and such discriminatory attitude of the Malir DMC’s representatives towards other areas could harm the party in the upcoming general elections.”

However, representatives of the Malir DMC put all the responsibility of maintaining and repairing major roads on the MQM-dominated Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC). Malir DMC Chairman Baloch said: “Firstly, major roads such as 8000 Road fall under the KMC’s jurisdiction. Secondly, the district government has limited resources so it’s impossible to undertake major roadwork.”

He added that the Malir DMC had written to the Sindh government and Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar to construct 8000 Road and the damaged portion of the Mehran Highway.