REALIZING THE IMPORTANCE OF KARACHI
ANY EFFORT TO NEGLECT THE IMPORTANCE CAN PROVE COUNTERPRODUCTIVE.
SHABBIR H. KAZMI
July 11 - 17, 2011
Over the years, efforts have been made to undermine the importance of Karachi. The first and fatal swipe was shifting of capital to Islamabad. Despite the fact that the city contributes nearly 75 per cent to national exchequer, allocation of funds for the development of city has remained miniscule. It was only during the regime of Pervez Musharraf that huge allocations were made for the development of the city.
Lately, in a television talk show Ms. Kushbakt Shujat, an MNA from Karachi, has rightly said that people come to the city for employments, earn money, and send billions of rupees to their hometowns but have hardly developed the sense of ownership. This is because they consider the city a place to live temporarily with the ultimate objective of returning to their hometowns.
Earlier, Mustafa Kamal, ex-Nazim of Karachi had been preaching a sense of ownership and one of his obsessions was 'My Karachi'. He kept on saying that the entire infrastructure has been constructed by the government, but it is for the general public and any and every attempt to damage this must be dealt with very seriously.
Karachi has a huge population of 20 million providing workforce for all sorts of industries i.e. high-tech industries, textile processing plants, automobile assembly units, highly technology based banking etc. It may not be wrong to say that population growth rate of Karachi is over five per cent as against 2 per cent at national level. This is mainly because on influx of people in search of better job opportunities in the city. Therefore, the city needs colossal funds for the maintenance, revamping, and construction of infrastructure. The city contributes billions towards national exchequer and has a right to demand at least 10 per cent of the total contribution. People need water, electricity and gas, public transport, efficient sewerage disposal system and above all security of their lives and assets.
Two seaports located in Karachi handle bulk of seaborne trade and has huge POL and liquid cargo storage facilities. Though Gwader has become functional it is still devoid of modern facilities and road and rail networks have not been fully developed. Therefore, private sector is still reluctant in using this port. Since millions of tons cargo move to and from these ports efficient multi module is the basic requirement of the city. Construction of mid-country refinery and black and while oil pipelines have reduced number of tankers taking these products to upcountry but daily dispatch of more than 2000 tankers/trawlers, particularly those carrying Nato supplies, create congestion as well as damage to the roads, which require millions of rupees for the regular maintenance. The city does not need any allocation from the federal or provincial government if the entire amount collected as road tax from Karachi is spent on construction of new roads, bridges, flyovers, and underpasses, and road rehabilitations.
Karachi has four major industrial estates (SITE, KATI, LATI, Bin Qasim) and various smaller industrial zones. These units not only provide employments to millions of people but also contribute huge share in total exports of the country. KATI has the largest number of tanneries and leather garment manufacturing units. Thousands of made up manufacturing units are operating in the country. Most of the pharmaceutical manufacturing units, steel rerolling mills, and seafood processing plants are operating in the city.
Two petroleum refineries have been operating in the city for nearly four decades and Byco refinery is located in the outskirts. Despite construction of PARCO refineries near Multan, these refineries are still catering to the needs of Sindh and Southern Punjab. Karachi has the highest off-take of POL partly because it has the largest number of cars, light commercial vehicles, trucks, buses and motorcycles population and partly because all the trucks/trawlers/tankers and buses fill tanks here before leaving upcountry.
Two fertilizer factories are operating at bin Qasim. One of these is the only producer of DAP fertilizer. The reason for locating this unit closed to port was to facilitate handling of imported raw material. The units meet less than one-third of the DAP requirements of the country. Due to a number of reasons, production capacity could not be increased but lately availability of gas has become the biggest obstacle.
Pakistan is facing nearly 1000 mmcfd shortfall of gas. While various options are being considered, LNG import seems commercially viable. The natural choice, be it onshore or offshore terminal, seems Port Qasim. This will give the port another feather in its cap as it already has LPG storage and handling facility.
Pakistanís largest export processing zone is also operating in close proximity with port Qasim. Though over the last couple of years Karachi Export Processing Zone has gone through structural changes, the facilities has remained under utilized. With the addition of Al-Tuwairqi Steel as standalone export processing zone, a new chapter is written in steel and allied industry history. Since a number of automobile assemblers and vendor units are operating at Port Qasim, it is expected that more of heavy industries will also be located there.
These were just a few examples indicating importance of Karachi in Pakistanís economy. Apart from these mega industrial units, thousands of SMEs and micro enterprises are operating in the country. Therefore, there is an urgent need to resolve all those issues, which can cause any disruption in economic activities.
Much hope was created when a ship/barge mounted rental power plant was docked at Karachi. However, moths have passed and the plant has not commenced power generation. Initially, some of the quarters questioned the economic viability of the project and the critics were looked down but time has proved that they were right.
The city needs uninterrupted supply of electricity at affordable cost otherwise, the industrial units located in the city will not be able to compete in the global markets.
The recent killing in Karachi has once again proved that there are certain elements adamant at destroying Karachi. Targeted killing has been going on for nearly three decades and little success has been achieved in rounding up the culprits. Whatever has been going on in Qasba colony has become a challenge for the citizens and the law enforcing agencies. The time has come that all the political parties join their hands to up root various mafias operating in the city. All the people living in the city must realize that if Karachi continues to be a victim of various pressure groups, the nation is at risk.