Karachi shifts focus to development as security improves

By Zia Ur Rehman

Construction work on an underpass in Karachi on April 3 is under way. [Zia Ur Rehman]

Construction work on an underpass in Karachi on April 3 is under way. [Zia Ur Rehman]

KARACHI -- The Pakistani government plans to focus on developing the city of Karachi after a crackdown on violent groups improved security in the area.

Prime Minister Imran Khan during a March 30 visit to Karachi announced the allocation of Rs. 162 billion ($1.15 billion) for the city's development, with funds to be primarily spent on public transport and water provision projects.

"It is high time to make a master plan for Karachi and define the boundaries of the city," said Khan, as he headed a meeting of the Karachi Transformation Committee at the Sindh Governor House in Karachi. Governor Imran Ismail and other government officials were in attendance.

"The country can't move forward until Karachi is developed," Khan said. "The whole country suffered because Karachi's development was halted by the worsening security situation."

Prime Minister Imran Khan March 30 inaugurates the development of a park in Karachi. [Sindh Governor House]

Prime Minister Imran Khan March 30 inaugurates the development of a park in Karachi. [Sindh Governor House]

To solve the problems the city faces, it needs a master plan, the prime minister said.

The development plan includes 18 projects, with 10 pertaining to public transport and 7 devoted to water, according to Khan.

Focus on development after successful crackdown

The time is ripe for mega-development projects in Karachi now that government efforts to crack down on various violent groups in the area have succeeded, political analysts and residents say.

The five-year effort by law enforcement and security agencies has freed Karachi of its reputation as a hotbed of sectarian, ethnic and gang warfare.

Stability has returned to the city thanks to operations conducted by the law enforcement agencies, said Saqib Sagheer, a journalist covering security affairs in the city.

"Various factions of Taliban militants, criminal gangs, sectarian outfits and militant wings of ethno-political parties have been shattered over the past five years," Sagheer told Pakistan Forward.

The development projects are key to helping the Karachi move past the damage inflicted by militant groups in the past, say elected officials from the city's violence-plagued areas.

The government needs to pay attention to the development needs of the Lyari neighbourhood because residents supported the law enforcement agencies against terrorists in the area, said Abubakkar Baloch, a councillor from Lyari, once a hotbed of violence.

He hailed the prime minister's announcement of development funds for the city.

"Through carrying out development projects and resolving civic issues, such as water provision, we can eradicate the root causes of militancy," Baloch told Pakistan Forward.

Stakeholders' support

Various stakeholders including municipal leaders and civil society activists in the city also praised Khan's announcement and said they will support the government's efforts.

The funds are crucial to starting development projects in the city, said Karachi Mayor Waseem Akhtar.

"Through the prime minister's package, a number of civic issues of Karachi will be addressed," Akhtar told Pakistan Forward.

Still, the funds are not enough to resolve all the problems of Karachi, which has been growing rapidly, he said.

Karachi residents are pleased with the development plans, said Nusrat Wahid, a parliamentarian from the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party.

"Although Karachi has been facing a number of challenges, the prime minister's allocated funds will help in resolving the core issues of transportation and water and sewage issues," Wahid told Pakistan Forward.

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