RISING LEVEL OF DISCOMFORT OF BUSINESS COMMUNITY

SHABBIR H. KAZMI
(feedback@pgeconomist.com)

Oct 15 - 21, 20
12

Some of those who have been doing business in Karachi for generations have either shifted part of their business to other cities/countries or are forced to seek nationality of other countries for the safety of their investment and family. Many who had gone to other cities of Pakistan have come back because they could not adjust there and are forced to work for others after having lost whatever they had.

Karachi has a population of over 20 million. It is often said that the city is even bigger than 85 countries (out of 200), which are member of UN. The mega size has its own problem but the reality is that the city that contributes 75% of total taxes collected gets only a paltry share. The result is broken roads, highly depleted water supply and sewerage disposal systems, electric utility incapable of meeting requirement of its customers, gas supplying company opting for mandatory closure of industries and the list continues.

Under the CDGK setup the city got around Rs50 billion annually. This enabled construction of flyovers, underpasses and roads and improvement in water supply and sewerage disposal systems. However, with the dissolution of the system city has once again got the same filthy look. Garbage is not collected regularly, water supply lines have dried, sewerage is overflowing and over the last three years roads, underpasses and flyovers have been damaged due to lack of maintenance. The city has faced worst situation during monsoon seasons due to overflowing water leading to traffic jams. The reason was simple rain drains were not cleaned before commencement of monsoon season.

However, the real problem is that Karachi has become the battle ground for settling political disputes. Almost all the mainstream political parties have their vote bank in certain areas. Just to exhibit their power they often give calls for 'shutter down strikes'. Shopkeepers face difficult situation because one group insists on keeping the shops closed and the other groups warn of serious consequences if shops are opened. In this encounter, private and public properties and public transport are burnt.

Added to this are booty collectors. In any areas the shopkeepers/factory owners, shopping malls and even apartment complexes get 'parchies' from up to two dozen groups and the demand is consistently on the rise. The booty culture has proliferated because it was initiated by the personnel of law enforcing agencies. They insist on getting free petrol, groceries, vegetables and fruits but the largest amount is collect by the traffic police and those who are responsible for removing the encroachments. It may not be wrong to say personnel of these entities have become 'the largest land grabbers'. Almost all the main roads, streets and footpaths have been encroached.

In the past abducting people for ransom was limited to certain areas but now it has become a roaring business, the numbers can be checked and verified from CPLC record. People have to spend millions of rupees on hiring of services of private security guards because police is too busy in escorting VVIPs. Dozens of police and rangers vehicles escort when president, prime minister, chief ministers and even ministers move around. For the extra safety roads are closed without the realization that these closures lead to severe traffic jams, missing of flights and even death of patients in the ambulances.

Targeted killing has also become too common. Previously places of worship were attacked and shopping complexes were targeted. Now it looks that the merchants of death decide every day how many people are to be killed. One gets this feeling because such killings are common in almost all the ethnic concentrations. Businessmen, academicians and even religious scholars are being assassinated on daily basis. However, the most deplorable is the attitude of politicians and law enforcing agencies who say, 'Killing of a dozen people on daily basis in a city of 20 million people' does not qualify to be the news.

Gas outages have become the recent menace. Not only supply of gas to industrial units is suspended, CNG station, captive power plants also face forced closure. I has been highlighted that observing gas load shedding in Sindh is violation of the constitution. However, it seems that now gas is being diverted to other provinces and power plants. Experts say that closing CNG stations without offering any alternative fuel is not justified.

KESC faces a unique situation. It is Pakistan's only integrated utility involved in generation, transmission and distribution of electricity. Its entire generation capacity is thermal based. Pilferage of electricity is common because political parties that are part of ruling coalition just don't want any action in their constituencies. Therefore, KESC is forced to undertake load shedding as well as demand hike in electricity tariff. The new threat is that soon NTDC will stop supplying around 700MW to Karachi due to rising pressure of Punjab. The government must make it sure that unless some alternative measures are taken, Karachi must continue to get this supply.

One has all the reasons to believe that HUBCO was established to meet Karachi's growing electricity demand. However, it was dedicated for Punjab as the province faced acute shortage of electricity. In the past KESC has also been supplying electrify to WAPDA. The purpose of creation of HUBCO was to meet electricity demand of Karachi and adjoining areas of Sindh and Balochistan that is the reason it was established near Karachi.

Nationalist parties from Sindh are opposing local bodies system. Although, tall the political parties have benefited from the system their recent resistance is solely aimed at depriving Karachi of its legitimate share in taxes. Till yesterday this motive was evident but was certainly there as population of Karachi has been grossly understated.

A point has been clearly understood by people speaking any language that people of Karachi have the first right on the revue collected from the city. They are ready to pass on part of this to other provinces only on one condition that other provinces have to increase revenue collection to meet their demands.