Sunday, August 2, 2009

Eleven Days in Karachi, Pakistan

Arrival in Karachi

My family and I arrived at Karachi's Jinnah International Airport on Tuesday in mid-July, 2009, after a short flight from Dubai in the afternoon. Our arrival was an hour later than scheduled. The disembarkation from the plane was fairly quick but the process of immigration and baggage claim was very slow, in clear contrast to our experience in Dubai. Even though it took more than a half hour to go through the immigration line where the passport numbers were being manually written down instead of being scanned, when we got to the baggage claim we had to wait another half hour to get our baggage. But we did go through the Customs green channel quickly without being stopped, and emerged to be greeted by a warm welcome by our family members in Pakistan.

As they did in Dubai, my daughters again found familiar symbols of American business presence as they saw a McDonald's restaurant right across from the exit at Karachi airport. We were driven to a suite at a private club where we stayed for the next eleven days. Because of my nephew's planned wedding two days after our arrival, I expected my sister's house to be quite full of people, and I chose to stay at the club rather than a hotel because of the relative security it offered from potential terror threats. In addition to a better security and lower daily rate than hotels, the club also offered more space and facilities, including room service, a gym, a jogging track, open lawns and assurance of uninterrupted supply of water and electricity that have become luxury for Karachi residents.

Karachi Weather and Traffic

Though it was a hot, humid and hazy summer day and the traffic was undisciplined, the drive from the airport was still fast and smooth, with all of the new infrastructure development consisting of many recently-built flyovers, underpasses, on-ramps and of-ramps to take us to the club in Defense Housing Authority (DHA) in Karachi.

After checking in at the club, we left for my sister's home which was a quick and short drive, in spite of the fact that a section of the road was torn up for repairs that delayed us slightly. As we sat down for lunch with my sister and her family, the power went out, but a small UPS unit kept some of the fans and lights still functioning. We enjoyed traditional Pakistani dishes of kofta, kebab and biryani, which were followed by delicious Pakistani mangoes in season in July. After lunch, one of my nephews bought a Warid SIM for my cell phone which was loaded with Rs. 500 worth of minutes ( at less than Rs. 3 per minutes) and it activated immediately upon installation. He also set up a Wi-Fi connection for us to start using our iPhones' email and browser functions and our notebook computers. On the way back to the club, we stopped at Makro, a Dutch-German warehouse-style supermarket like Costco, and picked up milk, tea bags, Splenda, orange juice, yogurt, croissants and Nestle water bottles to consume during our stay. Though the brand names were different, the shopping experience was similar to our grocery shopping trips in California. After returning to the club, we went to bed early to freshen up for the following full day of activities before my nephew's wedding day.

Garbage, Garbage Everywhere

On Wednesday morning we ate breakfast in our room. Then we ordered a Metro cab to take us to my sister's home, had lunch at my wife's sister's home and then on to the cemetery in North Nazimabad. We saw lots of heaps of stinking trash in several parts of the city along the roadside on our way. It seemed as though the Karachi garbage collectors were on strike, but my impressions proved to be incorrect, as I was told that this was normal in several parts of Karachi. The government owned and operated garbage collection systems pick up less than 50% of the solid waste generated and the remaining uncollected garbage rots on the streets, posing serious health risks for the growing population. The massive piles of garbage also plug up the already inadequate storm water drains resulting in serious flooding in the monsoon months of July and August every year. None of the major cities in Pakistan have an adequate solid waste management system, though Karachi city government has reportedly contracted with a Chinese firm to establish and operate such a system. The waste collection and management firm, Shanghai Shen Gong Environmental Protection Company Limited, will start its operations of collecting litter from across the city from August 14, 2009 - initially in only six of the eighteen towns of the city of Karachi. And, as expected, this service will not come free, nor should it. Karachi-ites will be required to pay Rs. 100 to 1,000 per month as public utility charges under six categories (according to lot size) on their residential units. Businesses built on 200 sq yards to 10,000 sq yards or more will have to pay Rs. 500 to Rs. 5,000 in garbage collection fees while industrial units covering an area of 1,000 sq yards to 5,000 sq yards and above will be billed Rs. 500 to Rs. 2,000 per month. There have already been howls of protests against these garbage collection fees and it will be interesting to see how effective CDGK (City District Government of Karachi) will be in ensuring payments.

Cemetery Visit

Upon reaching the cemetery, my wife managed to find her parents' final resting place, but I was not so fortunate to find and pay my respect at my father's grave. I was told by my brother-in-law who accompanied us that the cemetery keepers have no qualms about reselling used burial plots to build fresh graves on top of existing ones when they realize no one has visited for a while. But I did find some consolation in praying for my father's soul and the souls of others at the cemetery.

Nephew's Wedding

Thursday was my nephew's wedding day and we were warned that weddings in Karachi are very late night affairs that last into the wee hours of the next morning. So we decided to sleep in late in the morning on Thursday, but unfortunately one of my daughters started complaining of an upset stomach in the middle of the night. The next morning I called one of my friends to help me find medications for her. I was pleasantly surprised to find that almost everything I was looking for was available at a nearby store, ranging from Imodium to Pedialyte and Gatorade.

In the evening, we gathered at my sister's house to form a wedding procession. One of my nephews took the groom's car to be adorned by a florist but, as he was returning from the florist's, he was robbed at gun point and relieved of his wallet, cash, driver's license, credit cards and mobile phone. He seemed still quite shaken up as the wedding party (barat) left at 11:00 PM for the wedding hall in Gulshan-e-Iqbal, where the bride's family had made arrangements for the nikah. When we arrived at our destination, everyone was there but the kazi who was supposed to solemnize the marriage. Apparently, he had car trouble along the way and had to make alternative arrangements. He showed up about a half hour late, but then promptly completed the religious ceremony and the dinner was served. It was a good occasion for me to see a lot of my relatives and friends who I hadn't met in years. Since my daughter was still not well, we decided to leave about 1:30 AM, well before the rukhsati.

Breakfast with Friends

Three of my friends, SM, FN and TS showed up Friday morning for breakfast with me at the club dining hall. All three are fellow NEDians who I met after at least eight years. SM is a member of the club and made arrangements for my stay there. He is in the carpet business which is currently very slow because of the ongoing economic crisis hurting consumer confidence in Pakistan. FN, who joined us is doing brisk business by selling UPS units and diesel/gas generators because of the erratic and unpredictable power situation in Pakistan. I suggested to him to consider adding solar panel units backed up with battery storage to his list of offerings to try and promote cleaner energy. He seemed a little skeptical because of the current higher costs of solar solutions per watt compared to the UPS devices and gas-burning generators. The third friend, TS, is in management consulting business and is the current president of the local chapter of the IEEE. We reminisced about the old times, talked politics and current affairs and had the traditional omelet-paratha breakfast with Pakistani chai.

Twelve Hour Power Outages

There is continuing and growing gap between the nation's power supply and demand. An aspect of the increasing power outages from just a few hours in 2007 to over twelve hours a day now is the fact that most power producers are operating 30-40% below capacity, generating only 12000 MW when the installed capacity is about 20,000 MW. Companies like PEPCO, WAPDA and KESC owe billions of rupees in unpaid bills to the various power producers who are not buying enough fuel to operate on full capacity. Part of the problem is the widespread power theft accounting for as much as 30-40% of the total power produced. Even the government departments and government ministers and officials are guilty of not paying their bills while demanding the continuation of power flow.

Lunch with Activist Friend

We were invited to lunch with a friend RD and his wife VD at Barbecue Tonight restaurant in Clifton on Friday. The couple picked us up at the club and took us to the restaurant by the sea where we had a very good lunch of Pakistani grilled meats and curries of various flavors.

The former head of an NGO called Shehri, RD is a well-known Karachi engineering consultant and a prominent civic activist, who has often been a thorn in the side of the local developers and their friends in big places. Since he is not Muslim, he was particularly targeted with a fatwa against him by the unscrupulous mullahs in developers' pockets. He remained under police protection for a while until the fatwa against him was lifted. But he continues to be undaunted in his pursuit of a better Karachi for its citizens. His current campaign is aimed at significant modifications in the $43 billion Bundal and Buddo islands projects awarded to Emaar, a Dubai developer, in 2006. A bridge will be constructed at a cost of $50 million to link Karachi Defense Housing Society (DHA) Phase-8 with the two Islands. The islands are situated about a mile off the coast of Karachi. A major portion of one of the two islands has submerged beneath the sea and the Emaar Group will reclaim this land. According to the initial plan, about 15,000 houses are to be constructed and sold to the public. The construction on the islands has started in December, 2008, but the reports indicate a slowing of the planned effort due to the current economic slowdown in Emaar's Dubai home base and the weak real estate market in Karachi.

The Dreaded Monsoon

We woke up to heavy monsoon rains on Saturday morning, the day my sister and her husband had planned valima reception for their son. The rain did stop mid-day and we were able to go out and visit with my sister, but the situation got worse in the evening and the reception had to be abandoned. The temperature dropped several degrees and a pleasant breeze was in evidence, but the city streets were flooded and many drivers stranded, there was a massive and prolonged power outage hitting more than 90% of the city, and life essentially came to a standstill. The streets around our club were also flooded, but the water was quickly pumped out by large pumps by the next morning. Almost the entire city lost power. Even our club had trouble because an underground cable connecting with the emergency diesel generator was flooded. It took a few hours for the club to restore emergency power to our suite. There were reports of dozens of casualties from drownings to electrocutions to building collapses in different parts of the city. The problems were compounded by the loss of power at the city's main pumping station at Dhabeji that cut off water to the entire city for more than 24 hours. An estimated 700 million gallons of water could not be pumped over a period of about 40 hours. There were riots in the streets on Sunday as angry residents spilled out on to the streets and violent protests stopped traffic in many parts of the city.

Media Revolution

Since I was stuck in my club suite for many hours, I sat in front of the TV and flipped through the channels. It seemed that there are multiple, competing channels catering to almost every niche, whim and taste---from news, sports, comedy and talk shows to channels dedicated to cooking, fashion, fitness, music, business, religion, local languages and cultures etc. There has been a big media revolution during the Musharraf era that I hadn't seen before. It seems that this media revolution has had a profound influence on how many young people talk, dress and behave, emulating the outspoken media personalities, actors, preachers, singers, sportsmen, celebrities and fashion models. In addition to a smorgasbord of TV channels born out of a surge in advertising spending, there are many newspapers and tabloids, and serious and glossy magazines, and many FM radio stations providing local news, sports, weather and traffic.

Visit to a Friend's House

We were invited to lunch at SQ's house in Defense on Sunday. SQ is the friend who let us use his apartment and driver in Dubai. This close friend of ours also has a special connection with us because he was my classmate at NED Engineering College and his sister and his wife were my wife's classmates at Dow Medical College in Karachi. He had invited several classmates from our common alma mater of NED Engineering College in Karachi. Several of them could not attend because of the widespread flooding and power outages, but seven or eight still showed up. The street in front of SQ's house was flooded and we had to tiptoe around the big water puddle to step into his nice house in an upscale neighborhood. The grid power was out when we entered and only a few lights and fans were running off of the UPS. The gas-fired generator could not be started because it would significantly reduce the gas pressure and shut down the cooking range in the kitchen. The choice was between cooking and air conditioning. Finally, when the signal came from the kitchen that the cooking was done, the generator and the air conditioning were turned on for the comfort of the hosts and the guests. The discomfort from the lack of air conditioning during cooking was more than amply compensated by the delicious food we ate for lunch at SQ's house.

Private Power and Co-generation

As the conversation turned to power problems and every one jumped in to express their anger and frustration, I asked them if they can do something about it rather than complain? My friend RD, the civic activist, joined in and got the rest of the group to acknowledge that they are indeed among the top 1% of Pakistan's elite in terms of their education, income and social status. That begged the question as to why they can not do something about a problem that affects their daily lives so profoundly? Since they all live in the same upscale neighborhood in Defense, is it possible for them to try and set up a private power plant which can fill their needs and still make surplus power available to the grid? RD mentioned that he was working with a client who has just 10MW extra power to connect the plant to the grid and sell the power to KESC, the local power utility. If there were a hundred private plants like it, each with ten surplus megawatts, it could easily add up to a thousand megawatts extra power for Karachi, closing the demand-supply gap significantly.

Meeting with Karachi's Elite

On Monday, my NGO friend RD and his wife invited me to lunch at the Sindh Club with Mr. Ardeshir Cowasjee, a popular Karachi columnist and commentator whose writings I have admired. Mr. Cowasjee has been a strong supporter of many of my friend's civic activities and written about the issues faced by Karachi-ites as their city is going through significant new development. After spending a few minutes with him, it became obvious that Mr. Cowasjee is far more articulate and effective as a writer than he is in a face-to-face one-on-one conversation. The most memorable part of the conversation was Mr. Cowasjee's mention of another Sindh club member who had complained against him for calling him a Charya. Following lunch, I was introduced to a number of people who are considered as the city elite in Karachi. Some of them were journalists and talk-show hosts on Cable TV, others were business executives, senior bureaucrats, artists and architects. I did not find my conversation with them particularly enlightening, stimulating or inspirational.

Beach Day

Tuesday was beach day when we headed out to Hawke's Bay in Karachi. One of my nephews, who works for British Petroleum, reserved a BP hut for the family to enjoy the hot summer day on the beach. When we left, my sister's home was without electricity or water, just as most of the other homes in the city. But the BP hut had the luxury of power and water. The access roads to the beach were very crowded after the pavements were badly damaged by the monsoon rains. The construction crews were out there repairing the edge of some sections of the road that had collapsed and the traffic in both directions was sharing only one side of the divided road. I saw more trucks, beautifully painted and adorned, than I have ever seen in my life, parked on both sides of the road. At the beach, the water was comfortably warm and nice and a pleasant breeze was blowing from the Arabian sea as we slowly stepped into the water, fearing the presence of jellyfish in July's warm waters. While the children enjoyed camel rides and frolicking on the sandy beach, I decided to take a walk along the beach. Later, we enjoyed a picnic style lunch and returned to the club by late afternoon using a different, less crowded route that our driver learned from other drivers.

Tuesday evening, my friend MK invited me and a number of other friends to dinner at the Club I was staying at. Several friends showed up and we had a good time talking politics, among other things. Passions ran high briefly as the topic of Musharraf's possible trial and the campaign against the Taliban came up. One of the friends showed strong emotional support for holding Musharraf to account for Lal Masjid which has become a rallying cry for many supporters of the right-wing religious parties in Pakistan. The polarization was quite obvious on the question of the performance of the current leadership in comparison with Musharraf, though almost all expressed reservations about the current leadership and the direction of the country.

The Upscale Crowd

My family and I spent most of Wednesday with FN and his family, starting with lunch at the Gymkhana Club. Karachi Gymkhana Club is one of the oldest private clubs in Karachi that was founded by the British colonial rulers and remained exclusive for them for a while. It was not until the early 1950s that a Pakistani became the president of the club. It's an old colonial style building on a large piece of prime real estate in the most expensive part of Karachi, located close to two five-star hotels and the American consulate. After a sumptuous lunch, my wife headed out for shopping with my friend's wife and their son showed me and my daughters around town, mostly the upscale area near the water front. We passed by the Creek Club, stopped at the Defense Golf Club and Resort, the Clifton beach and later stopped at the Emaar Crescent project to tour their tastefully decorated model units on display.
This part of town could be easily mistaken for resort communities in California or Florida. The first release of the Emaar Crescent project offered one, two and three bedroom world-class, beach-front luxury apartments ranging in price from $300,000 to $500,000 sold out quickly last year. The Crescent community will be a self-contained community with its own gyms, tracks, water, power, schools, parks, libraries and shopping etc. A lot of the speculators probably bought these units in the expectation of rising real estate prices to make a quick profit. But the real estate bubble burst in Karachi as it did elsewhere. The second release is now underway but the prices have not gone up as some expected, nor has this release been sold out like the last one.

Hospital Emergency Room Visit

As we prepared to attend the wedding of my cousin's daughter on Wednesday evening, my younger daughter complained of fever and stiff neck that sent alarm bells ringing in my physician wife's head. She suspected the worst, forcing us to make an emergency room visit around 10PM. The Agha Khan University Hospital emergency room is where our driver took us. FN volunteered to join us there to help us guide through the process. Fortunately for us, the hospital procedures and staff were quite comparable to what we have seen in California. Without filling out any paperwork, the triage nurse and doctor examined my daughter and quickly concluded that it is not the horrible ailment that my wife feared. But they still went ahead and ordered blood tests to confirm their conclusion. The whole thing cost under Rs. 2000, a far cry from emergency room bills in the US. The prescription drugs were even cheaper, just under Rs. 150 for a full course of antibiotics. It turned out to be a relatively quick and painless process because of the procedures, the equipment and the skilled and friendly staff at the emergency room. On our way back from the emergency room at 1AM, I stopped at a McDonald's restaurant to pick up a couple of big macs and I was astonished to see customers waiting in lines at such late hour. It seemed to me that most Karachi-ites never sleep or sleep very little.

Our Alma Maters

On Thursday, my activist friend RD's wife gave us a tour of both NED Engineering University's old campus in the city which now houses the Department of Architecture headed by Professor Noman Ahmed, and Dow Medical College now known as Dow University of Health Sciences. The visits brought back many fond memories for both of us as we walked on the hallowed grounds of our alma maters and took many pictures. Our daughters were particularly interested in seeing their parents colleges and thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity. Professor Noman Ahmed explained to us the work he is doing in restoring the old colonial NED building to preserve its grand, historical edifice, complete with its tall stone masonry chimney that has symbolized NED for generations. Their passion and commitment came through loud and clear as he and one of his female lieutenants talked about their efforts. Later in the day, I went to visit the NED University's new campus near Karachi University, about 20 miles from the downtown campus. There I had lunch with Professor MN of Electrical Engineering department. MN and I both graduated from NED in 1974 and he chose to serve his alma mater, after attending graduate school at Duke, while I decided to stay and work in the United States. MN gave me a tour of the campus and I met several students who recognized me because of PakAlumni social network which has hundreds of NEDians as members. MN talked about his successes and frustrations in his teaching career in particular, and the politics in general. MN has the distinction of being well remembered and highly regarded by many of his past students who have now become quite successful in Silicon Valley and elsewhere. By all accounts, he is indeed a very dedicated teacher and mentor of many successful NEDians. In many ways, MN shares the idealism of my other activist friend RD in Karachi, and he is an activist in his own right and fights for the causes he believes in.

We spent most of the day Friday saying goodbyes, packing up and getting ready for our departure to Beijing on Friday night.

I Am Optimistic

Overall, we had a good time in Pakistan. It offered me and my wife a great opportunity to renew contacts with many good friends and close relatives, and for my daughters to get a closer look at their parent's culture and country of origin. We immensely enjoyed the extraordinary hospitality extended to us by all of our family and friends. In spite of all their current difficulties and multiple crises they are facing, I have faith in Pakistanis' abilities to deal with their problems. I felt their pain, but I remain optimistic about Pakistan's future.

Related Links:

Karachi, Pakistan

Power Shortages in Pakistan

America's Best Run Cities

Karachi: The Urban Frontier

Garbage Collection in Karachi

Pakistan's Electricity Crisis

Emaar Bullish on Pakistan

Karachi Dreams Big

Cost of Power Outages in India


Karachi Hotels said...

First of all thanks for sharing your trip with us. It always seems nice, meeting old friends after long time and share a wonderful time. I hope you'd find Karachi allot better next time you visit Pakistan.

Anonymous said...

Riaz Bhai - Aap ney Karachi mein ja kar doston aur azeezon sey milney key elavah koi naik kaam bhee kia? Maslan Charity for Sawat?

Anonymous said...

that was an awesome detailed account, I really enjoyed as It has been 10 years since I last visited karachi.1998 was so bad power outages wise, did not have the courage to go again after that experinece.But everything sounds more advance now picture wise.

amberhaq said...

As far as "naik kaam," I can personally attest to the fact that my father Riaz and I periodically make contributions to charities that help the poor and impoverished in Pakistan. The same can be said of many of our nonresident Pakistani friends. We recently contributed to HDF, a wonderful organization that builds schools in Pakistan and provided clothes, food and other resources to Sawat's refugees and is helping them rebuild.

Riaz Haq said...

Like other megacities of the developing world, Karachi's population is rapidly growing due to migration of the rural folks.

Similar issues re plaguing other South Asian cities like Delhi and Mumbai.

Here's an except from a recent BBC report on this phenomenon: more and more migrants arrive in Delhi, the pressure on land, on water supplies, and on urban infrastructure intensifies.

India's capital is creaking at the seams.

It's the same story across the developing world. Mega-cities have been growing at an incredible rate, and are struggling to cope with the demands of millions of new inhabitants.

Take the example of Mumbai. Its population has roughly doubled in the past 25 years, and millions of people live in the slums.

Ensuring access to clean water is a particular dilemma, and for many a daily grind.

Early in the morning, in north Mumbai, dozens of people are queuing in the rain with buckets and plastic jerry cans, hoping to buy water from a hose-pipe snaking out into the narrow street.

The municipal supply is only switched on for a couple of hours a day at best. So this is the one chance for people with no connection to the mains to get enough water to meet their basic needs.

"There's no planning whatsoever, and every day more and more people arrive in the city, and the problems keep getting worse," says Chandrashekhar Prabhu, a prominent architect.

But despite all the strains on the system there is an argument that migration from rural to urban areas in countries like India should increase still further.

A World Bank report earlier this year (The World Development Report 2009) says the process of migration should be welcomed and encouraged as a way of lifting people out of poverty.

"Instead of worrying about the size of metropolises, cities and towns, the government should worry about making sure that these places work well," said the director of the World Development Report, Indermit S Gill, on its release.

And that's a huge challenge.

Because if a decent percentage of this country's migrant workers succeed and settle down, they too will be seeking even more water, more food and more energy supplies.

India's cities are developing fast. But the demands of the people are developing faster.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a BBC report today about acute water problems in Mumbai, India's largest city:

The heat is scorching as the young woman knocks on the window of my taxi, though rather than begging for cash she points at my water bottle, then to her mouth.

In a city where clean water has become a commodity that is delivered to the highest bidder, the poor often have to go without.

Yet those who have money can easily get enough. In Mumbai's wealthy suburbs, large tankers delivering water are commonplace.

Every day more than 5,000 tankers deliver some 50 million litres of water to people who can pay, according to unofficial estimates cited by the newspaper Mumbai Mirror.

Water shortages

But even if the wealthy were to go without such top-up deliveries, there would probably not be enough water to go around.

Mumbai's Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) delivers some 90 litres of water per day to the city's residents.

That is far short of the 135 litres of water the World Health Organization (WHO) says they require for their basic needs.

So in Mumbai, there is growing anger over the water shortages.

Last month, BMC hydraulic engineers' office was vandalised by activists. Over the weekend, a man died after violent clashes in the city between police and protestors who demanded better access to water for the disabled.

Global problem

But the lack of access to clean water is by no means merely a problem facing those who live in India's biggest cities.

In the central Indian city of Bhopal, people who live in some of the slums pump drinking water from groundwater contaminated by industrial pollution. Children who live in the slum play by the filthy and rubbish-strewn river that runs past.

Head out into rural India, and three-quarters of the population does not have access to safe drinking water.

As the population continues to grow the problem is getting worse.

India's water needs are set to double over the next two decades, according to consultants McKinsey.

Production of rice, wheat and sugar is set to push up demand from Indian agriculture, the consultancy warns.

And the problem is growing, both in India, as well as in China, South Africa and Sao Paulo state in Brazil.

By 2030, the four areas will account for more than two fifths of the world's water demand, largely thanks to a sharp rise in food production, McKinsey says.

By then, demand for water will be 40% higher than it is currently, the consultancy predicts.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a ranking of ease of doing business in South Asia that puts Pakistan well ahead of India:

Bangalore: The business environment in Pakistan and Bangladesh is far better than in India. According to the latest 'Doing Business Index', India's business environment has become tougher during the years compared to other nations.

Economies are ranked from one to 183 on the basis of their regulatory environment being conducive to business operations. All of India's neighbors except Afghanistan have been ranked better. While India is ranked 133, Pakistan is ranked 85th followed by Sri Lanka (105), Bangladesh (119) and Nepal (123).

"India is a consistent reformer for the past many years. A country's rank in the index is an average of 10 indicators, each with 10 percent weight in the index. India increased the number of judges in the specialized debt recovery tribunals, which led to a major removal of blockages. While India reformed in the area of insolvency, other countries reformed in more than one area," World Bank's Senior Strategy Advisor, Dahlia Khalifa told Economic Times explaining why India has been overtaken by other nations.

The 2010 Doing Business Report prepared by World Bank and the International Finance Corporation averages a country's percentile ranking on 10 topics, made up of a variety of indicators. This includes examining a country's business environment in terms of starting a business, dealing with construction permit, employing workers, registering property, getting credit, protecting investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts and closing a business.

The first place is occupied by Singapore, which is followed by New Zealand, Hong Kong and the U.S.

To see complete rankings and report, click here:"

Mayraj said...

Phoenix, Arizona; Austin, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina; Portland, Oregon and Minneapolis-St Paul in the Twin Cities Region of Minnesota are cities that a developing country city should have sister relations with. They are all leading American cities for performance. San Francisco has a had an innovative culture which has usually then been adopted in other cities also.

For instance the San Francisco mayor has been term limited to two terms since the 1950s. Now that is the California norm across the state and applies to state positions as well. Term limits have spread nationwide.

I should also say that non-partisan elections have also spread nationwide and also have shown positive results in Latin America where they also have term limits. Under the new system in Pakistan along with integrated local system you have council-manager system, non-partisan elections and term limits. This is really the most evolved system any South Asian nation has ever had. It is something I never expected to see in Pakistan, let alone in my lifetime.

Austin is a green capital of US along with Portland. San Francisco is also green oriented.

Phoenix and Charlotte are council-manager cities; which is also the formula that Karachi has. The council manager form is the dominated local government local formula in US now, generally. Amongst the largest cities mayor-council formula is dominant;but, that doesn't mean some of the largest cities do not have council-manager systems.

I did an article in 2005 about this:

Here is some info about Phoenix:

Creating a Culture of Innovation:

10 Lessons from America’s Best Run City

Phoenix City Manager to Retire

Riaz Haq said...

There have been widespread complaints in Islamabad, including by Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin, that the government had solutions to improve the power output but was refusing to implement them in order to benefit a handful of power plant operators, such as those supplying rental power at exorbitant rates, while the IPPs are not being paid for supplying power from currently underutilized installed capacity. Requests for information by Transparency International Pakistan regarding rental power contracts have been ignored by the Ministry of Water and Power. There are widespread corruption allegations against Mr. Zardari personally who has influenced the award of the 783 MW rental power contracts to a former governor of Oklahoma and his Pakistani partner.

Riaz Haq said...

Here is an excerpt from a recent report from Pakistan Economist about rental power in Pakistan:

Pakistan People's Party led coalition government has opted the option of using Rental Power Plants (RPPs) to overcome persistent electricity crisis that is not only causing great amount of hardships for the fellow citizens but also hitting hard to country's economy. There is much hue and cry from political and other circles over alleged kickbacks in deals of RPPs. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz has already announced to issue a White Paper on RPPs while another opposition party-Pakistan Muslim League (Q)- is also at the forefront in highlighting alleged wrongdoings in the execution of RPPs. Sources in PEPCO told PAGE that RPPs would provide electricity at a quick speed compared to IPPs which will reduce power deficit on an emergency basis. These rental projects are for five years and its costing responsibility rests with private sector investors.

The contract life of these projects is between 3-5 years, after which the government has no obligation to purchase power from these units. According to them, it is incorrect to suggest that rental power costs are substantially higher than that of IPPs. Due to different tariff of rental plants, even after taking into account the high fuel costs, the cost difference is almost equal or marginally higher in case of RPPs. Compared with IPPs, RPPs power generation cost ranges between 12-13 cents per KWh, and IPPs' power generation costs approximately 12 cent per KWh. Government circles are of the view that mere blame game is going on just for the sake of leg pulling. There is nothing wrong in RPPs and the only viable option to get rid of load shedding is rental power plants, they believe. They said rental tariffs for the projects depended on number of factors including location of the plants, system maintenance, and consumption of fuels. Others factors are variation in project cost due to difference in technology, age of machinery, and variations in financing. As many as, 14 approved RPPs with total generation capacity of 2250MW will start functioning by December, which would expectedly end the energy crisis.

However, critics of RPPs are of the sanguine view that highly controversial RPPs are proving last resort to overcome the power crisis, which has hit hard the economic growth of the country besides adding salt to public miseries at large. The political government has surrendered to public pressures on construction of Kalabagh Dam, the only way to survive ahead and instead preferred to go after a stopgap arrangement at a higher cost. The independent experts are of the view that RPPs would not only fail to meet rising electricity demand but also burden the national exchequer in general and power consumers in particular. The public is justifiable in questioning that if RPPs are the option, why it is adopted too late. According to Pakistan Electric Power Company (Pepco) Managing Director Tahir Basharat Cheema, an investment of around US $2 billion is expected in power sector through RPPs. Apart from investment in power sector, additional electricity of 1675 MW will be added in the system by December 2009 when nine rental power projects will start generation.

However, overall 2250 MW electricity will be generated through RPPs in current fiscal year (2009-10). Two rental power projects that have already started generation include Atlas Power (213 MW) and Attock Generation (156 MW) while remaining seven will start functioning by December 2009. These RPPs include Nishat (196 MW), Engro (203 MW), Saif Power (213 MW), Fauji Foundation (176 MW), Sapphire Electric Company (213 MW), and Orient Power Company (213 MW). He said all proposals of RPPs were accepted only with bid bonds and performance guarantee by sponsors.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a blog post about "Power Politics" on "Teeth Maestro". It was produced by Center for Research and Security Studies:

Two questions: why have some private power producers completely shut down? Why are private power producers operating way below their full generating potential? Two answers: political score-settling plus the circular debt.

We at the Centre for Research and Security Studies (CRSS) have been trying for months to ascertain the crux of our power politics. Almost all roads lead back to the government. The federal government is the largest power defaulter, then come the four provincial governments, FATA, the KESC and the KW&SB. This is how the circular debt explodes into even bigger circles: the federal government does not pay its electricity bills to Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA).

WAPDA is then unable to pay for electricity it buys from IPPs. IPPs are then unable to pay for their oil supplies. Refineries, short on cash, are unable to pay their foreign suppliers. Grow, grow, grow and we have a Rs200 billion time bomb.

Welcome to the rental power bonanza; the government’s ingenious – canny, crafty and cunning – all-in-one solution for the crux of our power politics. What we need to do is to re-start the power producers that are shut down. That’s 800 MW at US 11 cents per MW. What we need to do is to resolve our circular debt puzzle. What we need to do is to get our sugar mills connected to the national grid which could generate an additional 2,200 MW at less than US 11 cents per MW.

Riaz Haq said...

Here' Reuter's analysis of rental power in Pakistan:

Aides of Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin said he almost resigned after failing to persuade the cabinet against renting, an option he considered expensive and inefficient.

Here are some questions and answers about the plight of the power sector in Pakistan and leasing plants.


Pakistan has about 20,000 MW of installed power production capacity, but that falls short of demand by roughly 4,000 MW. Lengthy power cuts, dubbed load shedding, have become commonplace.

Past governments failed to anticipate the growth in demand and delayed clearing power project proposals and big dam projects that would have boosted hydro power.

Lack of investment in existing plant, outdated grids and rampant electricity theft mean that some grid companies experience line losses of up to 30-40 percent, analysts say.

Many independent power producers (IPPs) operate well below capacity because they cannot pay their fuel bills regularly as grid companies owe them money.

The crisis has crippled industry, notably textiles, the main export sector and largest employer in the manufacturing sector.

There have also been violent protests that some analysts see as a bad omen both for the government and democracy in a country struggling to contain the growth of Islamist militancy.


The 18-month-old civilian government has vowed to increase supplies but needs huge finances.

It recently reached an agreement with the World Bank and Asian Development Bank to phase in power tariff increases.

The government is working on a multi-pronged strategy to address the problem through building new dams and setting up new permanent power plants. It sees Rental Power Plants (RPPs) as the "only solution", while completing medium and long-term projects.


Countries can hire power units from overseas manufacturers that can be shipped in kit form and installed.

It takes four to six months to set up a rental unit, while two to five years may be needed for an Independent Power Producer to build a plant.

Surging emerging economies like China and Turkey have gone the short-term rental route to bridge power supply gaps. And Pakistan, according to official documents, had two rental units commence operation in 2007.

Under the new plan, additional RPPs would be set up to generate 2,250 MW by the end of the year.


The rental power plants would increase the Pakistani power sector's furnace oil needs by 29 percent, driving up its import bill and adding to pressure on the rupee and currency reserves.

Pakistan requires 35,000 tonnes a day to feed its thermal power plants and the installation of the RPPs will increase demand to 45,000 tonnes, officials say.

The country imports about 80 percent of its oil. It spent $9.5 billion on the import of 10.6 million tonnes of petroleum products and 7.8 million tonnes of crude oil in the 2008/09 (July-June) financial year.


Rental plants can provide breathing space for Pakistan to focus on medium- and long-term projects.

Advocates say rental plants are efficient, will help quickly meet growing needs, and end-consumers will pay the same or a bit less for their electricity.

Opponents say the mostly second-hand equipment will be less efficient and that the tariff will rise. They argue that the government would be better off spending money on upgrading and using idle existing capacity.

Some opponents also say the option is being supported by corrupt politicians hoping for kickbacks.

Riaz Haq said...

Here is an explanation offered by the News for gas and CNG shortage in Pakistan:

ISLAMABAD: The multi-million dollar mystery shrouding the serious shortage of gas in the country, which has already led to twice a week closure of CNG stations, seems to have finally been resolved, as millions of cubic feet of gas per day is now being supplied to powerful owners of the controversial rental power plants in the country as the Economic Coordination Committee of the Cabinet meeting on Tuesday (tomorrow) has been asked to approve additional supplied for these plants.

The official sources said these expensive rental power plants, which were being installed with tall claims to address the energy crises in the country, were said to have now become one of the major reasons behind a new sorts of energy crises in Pakistan, as their gas requirements are bound to hit other sectors of economy running on gas supplies. The cement sector has already been hit as its gas supply is now being diverted to one such power plant at Naudero.

Under the agreed deal which was subjected to criticism both within and outside the Parliament, these rental power plants will continue to get gas supplies for five years till the completion of their agreements with the Ministry of Water and Power.

The formal approval of this gas supply is being given in the Economic Committee of the Cabinet (ECC) meeting tomorrow (Tuesday). Finance Minister Shaukat Tarin will preside over the meeting as Petroleum Minister Naveed Qamar is out to get the approval for these plants as proposed in the official summary of his ministry.

The sources said the supply of gas would become a huge issue in the coming days for even the domestic consumers after the government would divert more gas to these rental power plants after diverting it from the sectors which were now regularly getting the supplies. Now ECC was asked to give supply of gas only for one plant. Sources said, more demands from other power plants will soon follow and then the country would really experience the burden of these power plants, which were ironically being installed to address the very energy crises of the country.

The official papers to be laid in the ECC meeting revealed that the gas meant for the cement sector in particular was being drastically reduced and diverted to the rental power plants in the country. One source said, certain other sectors which are already getting the gas in the country soon may also face similar kind of cuts in their approved supply to accommodate the privileged and powerful owners of the plants having direct links at the top levels.

The huge gas supply is being supplied as a part of deal struck with these rental power plants by the Ministry of Water and Power in controversial circumstances.

According to the official papers to be tabled in the ECC meeting, the Ministry of Petroleum was now seeking the approval of diversion of gas from cement to power plants and initially a power plant of 51 MW was being provided with 30MMCFD. The papers said earlier the ECC has decided on October 2 to place 12 MMCFD gas from SSGC system at the disposal of PPIB/Ministry of Water and Power for five years for power generation in accordance with the natural gas allocation and management policy of 2005. The official summary said the Ministry of Water and Power have now informed that 12 MMFCD gas been allocated to the power plants project.

The summary said, based on SSGCL commitment, it is proposed that 15 MMCFD additional gas from SSGCL system which includes diversion of 14MMCFD gas being supplied to cement sector may be placed at the disposal of PPPB/ Ministry of Water and Power on the “ as and when available basis for five years” for power generation subject to following conditions.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Newsline story of how inter-ethnic love affair created ethnic tensions in Karachi in Dec, 2009:

It was not just a simple boy-meets-girl love story with a tragic ending. It had a twist. The two lovers were already married – just not to each other. The very fact that they belonged to different ethnic backgrounds and lived in a Karachi neighbourhood where ethnic and political tensions ran high, made their love saga even more complicated. Muhammad Amir, who was in his early 30s and a father of two children, belonged to an Urdu-speaking family, while Zainab was a Baloch whose husband worked in Dubai.

Despite repeated warnings from family and some of Zainab’s neighbours, the two continued their taboo relationship. On January 4, Amir was kidnapped. Two days later, his beheaded body was found in Lyari’s Kalakot area and several hours later the head located in Chakiwara, another part of Lyari.

Amir was an activist of the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM). This association added another grim twist to the tale. A case of an otherwise routine, but controversial, ‘honour’ killing, exploded into a spree of tit-for-tat targeted murders between militants of rival ethnic groups. Stopping this violence proved beyond the powers of the police as these militants were supporters of the two major parties of the ruling coalition – the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the MQM. Police say that at least 24 people were killed in four days of violence. Tensions ran high not just in parts of Karachi’s District South, but also in some areas of its adjacent District West – highlighting again not just the deep political and ethnic divides in Pakistan’s business and industrial capital, but also underlining the muscle power of the armed groups and the sordid relation between crime and politics.

“Criminalisation of politics and politicisation of crime is the biggest problem in Karachi,” says a former IG police, requesting anonymity, who served in Sindh in various important positions for several years. “All the major political parties have criminals in their ranks and they are protected and patronised by politicians.”

The Amir-Zainab love saga indeed sparked the violence, but any other issue could have pit rival bands of militants against each other. The innate germs of political and ethnic rivalry and the clash of economic interests, coupled with rampant poverty and crime, provide the basis for such a showdown.

As the police try to trace the killers of Amir and locate Zainab, their story remains nothing more than a minor footnote in the brewing conflict among different political players and crime syndicates operating in Karachi.

“Crime and politics are so interwoven and the relationship among various stakeholders is so complex that breaking away from the present scheme of things appears impossible for any government,” says the former IG. “Many of those in power have a tainted past and a history of supporting and cultivating criminals and their gangs.”

For many security experts, Karachi, with all its ethnic, political and sectarian problems and crime mafias, is like a bubbling volcano all set to explode. The glimpses of the seething lava were seen as recently as December 28, 2009, when angry bands of youngsters went on a rampage, burning and looting more than 6,000 shops following the bombing of the Muharram procession. Top police officials say it was a “natural reaction” by participants of the mourning procession. (For details see CCPO Karachi’s interview in the box).

In the past, too, Karachi has suffered from widespread violence and terrorism scores of times in which politics, ethnicity, sectarianism and crime played a major role.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an interesting Op Ed by George Fulton in Pakistan's edition of International Herald Tribune:

We haven’t got a lot to be thankful for these days in Pakistan.

But at least we are not Dubai.

Fed up with loadshedding, bombs, and TV cynicism pervading Pakistan, I recently escaped to Dubai for a holiday. Big mistake. Huge. Ten days later I returned, gasping for Karachi’s polluted, but far sweeter, air. Dubai may have the world’s tallest building and the world’s largest shopping mall, but it also has the world’s tiniest soul. It’s a plastic city built in steel and glass.

It has imported all the worst aspects of western culture (excessive consumption, environmental defilement) without importing any of its benefits (democracy, art). This is a city designed for instant gratification a hedonistic paradise for gluttons to indulge in fast food, fast living and fast women. It’s Las Vegas in a dish dash. You want to eat a gold leaf date? Munch away.

You want to drink a Dhs 3,000 bottle of champagne? Bottoms up. You want a UN selection of hookers at your fingertips? Tres bien. Let’s start with the malls. These cathedrals of capitalism, these mosques of materialism are mausoleums of the living dead. Slack jawed zombies roam around consuming food, clothes and electronics in a desperate attempt to fill the emptiness of their existence.

Whilst at the Mall of the Emirates the azan goes off. Nobody appears to move to the prayer room; everyone’s too busy performing sajda before Stella McCartney, genuflecting before Gucci, and prostrating themselves at Prada. With Dubai, one recalls F Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

The people are modern day Gatsbys, buying shirts that they will never wear and books they will never read. Like Fitzgerald’s roaring 20s America, Dubai is a moral failure a society obsessed with wealth and status. Everyone is trying to keep up with the Jones’ or the Javaids. You see the goras with their perma-tans, streaked highlights and their flabby cleavages.

Riaz Haq said...

Here is a recent NY Times report on violence in Karachi:

KARACHI, Pakistan — This chaotic city of 18 million people on the shores of the Arabian Sea has never shrunk from violence. But this year, Karachi has outdone even itself.

Drive-by shootings motivated by political and ethnic rivalries have reached new heights. Marauding gangs are grabbing tracts of land to fatten their electoral rolls. Drug barons are carving out fiefs, and political parties are commonly described as having a finger in all of it.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan recently reported that more than 1,350 people had been killed in Karachi in targeted political killings so far this year, more than the number killed in terrorist attacks in all of Pakistan.

That tally has solidified Karachi’s grim distinction as Pakistan’s most deadly place, outside its actual war zones, where the army is embroiled in pushing back a Taliban insurgency.

Indeed, it is the effect of the war, which has displaced many thousands of ethnic Pashtuns from the northern tribal areas and sent them to this southern port, that has inflamed Karachi’s always volatile ethnic balance. For the most part, extremists who torment the rest of Pakistan with suicide bomb attacks exploit the turmoil here to hide, recruit and raise funds.

The attack last week on the police headquarters by a suicide bomber that killed dozens was the exception, the first attack by extremists against a government institution in the city. Far more common have been killing by gangs affiliated with ethnic-based political parties hunting for turf in a city undergoing seismic demographic change.

Karachi has long been dominated by ethnic Mohajirs, Urdu-speaking people who left India in the 1947 partition and who have been represented politically by the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, commonly known as the M.Q.M.

The M.Q.M. has a long association with violence. In 1992, the army moved into Karachi to suppress it, accusing it of a four-year rampage of torture and murder. During what amounted to a two-year occupation by the army, “several thousand” people were killed, according to accounts at the time.

The latest challenge to the M.Q.M.’s hold is the influx of Pashtuns who have fled the war to seek work and shelter in Karachi’s slums. Though the Pashtuns number some five million here now, they remain politically underrepresented, and the frustrations of the newcomers have increasingly been channeled into violent retribution by the Awami National Party, or A.N.P.

The two sides have set their gangs on each other. In August, after a senior M.Q.M. member was shot to death at a funeral, more than 100 people were killed in a weeklong orgy of violence.

The army, asked by some political parties to move in again and keep the peace, declined. During the by-election last month to fill the provincial assembly seat left vacant by the murder, more than 30 people were killed.

In that rampage, members of a self-styled people’s peace committee affiliated with the Pakistan Peoples Party, which leads the national government and considers this province, Sindh, its base, stormed an outdoor market on motorcycles and shot 12 Mohajir shopkeepers, the police said.

Hours later, seven men of ethnic Baluch origin were killed, apparently in revenge for the deaths of the Mohajirs, said Zafar Baloch, a spokesman for the peace committee.

Amber Alibhai, the secretary general of Citizens for a Better Environment, said: “If our government is not going to wake up, I fear Karachi will have ethnic cleansing like Bosnia. There’s no one to stop it. Who’s going to stop it? The police? The army? They can’t.”

The cost of Karachi’s violence hurts all of Pakistan. More liberal than the rest of the country in decorum and religious belief, Karachi is the economic engine of the nation, home to petrochemical plants, steel works, advertising agencies and high-tech start-ups....

Riaz Haq said...

Here is part 2 of a recent NY Times report on violence in Karachi:

The cost of Karachi’s violence hurts all of Pakistan. More liberal than the rest of the country in decorum and religious belief, Karachi is the economic engine of the nation, home to petrochemical plants, steel works, advertising agencies and high-tech start-ups.

The rich live in grand houses in gated communities paved with broad boulevards. The poor live in neighborhoods like Lyari, a slum with little sanitation, fleeting electricity and hardscrabble roads that sits under an expressway.

Other megacities in the developing world — like Shanghai and Mumbai — manage law and order through political leadership that is absent in Karachi, said Farrukh Saleem, a political analyst who writes in The News, a national newspaper.

A scared, understaffed and in some cases complicit police force compounds the problem. That was the message of a new report by a parliamentary committee that said 603 police officers had been assassinated since 1996. This year, 33 officers have been killed, the report said.

Many of these senior police officers were targeted, the report said, as retribution for the military action against the M.Q.M. in 1992, a sign of the long memory of the M.Q.M.

But it is the persistent lack of Pashtun representation in the city and provincial governments that underlies the troubles, said Abdul Qadir Patel, the chairman of the committee that wrote the report and a Pakistan Peoples Party member of Parliament. “The Pashtuns are frustrated and the A.N.P. says, ‘We’ll fight back,’ ” Mr. Patel said.

In rare candor for a Pakistani government document, his report said “ethnicity, sectarianism, perceived insecurity due to demographic changes, gang war between mafias and clash of interests among workers of political parties have been the real cause of violence in Karachi.”

Of 178 boroughs in the 18 towns of Karachi, only 4 are controlled by the Pashtuns. Of 168 seats in the provincial assembly of Sindh, where Karachi is located, the A.N.P., the party of the Pashtuns, has just 2.

Based on Karachi’s demographics, Pashtuns “could have up to 25 seats in the provincial legislature,” Mr. Saleem wrote. “That is political power way out of sync with demographic realities.”

As part of the push and pull in the demographic war, the major political parties use armed thugs to commandeer public land so they can gerrymander election districts, said Mrs. Alibhai of the citizens’ group. One of her group’s workers was killed last year trying to protect a park.

“Land grabbing is used by political parties to increase their electoral mandate and enhance their financial position,” she said.

A recent former M.Q.M. mayor of Karachi, Syed Mustafa Kamal, denied that his party, which has long been favored by Washington for its secular outlook, was involved in the killing of Pashtuns.

Mr. Kamal, who as mayor from 2005 until this year is credited with extending running water to several Pashtun neighborhoods, said Karachi was the rightful home of the Mohajirs. The Pashtun, he said, harbor the Taliban and foment terrorist attacks. “We are the victims,” he insisted.

The gruesome clash between the Mohajirs and the Pashtuns has spread recently to the stalls in Gulshen Town, a Mohajir-dominated area, where people sip tea and chat.

There, Pashtun waiters who deliver hunks of roasted lamb to truck drivers at curbside tables, have become targets, said Noorullah Achakzai, the chairman of a union of hotel workers.

In April, Abdul Rehman, 35, said he was eating lunch with a friend when six men on three motorcycles fired at them. “I got one bullet, my friend got one, the others were scattered,” he said.

Mr. Rehman showed a long scar across his stomach. His friend died, one of the first, Mr. Achakzai said, of 52 outdoor waiters killed in Karachi this year..

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Daily Times report on the inauguration of Port Grand Food Street in Karachi:

KARACHI: Governor Sindh Dr Ishrat Ul Ebad has said that mega economic hub like Karachi that houses millions of people, needs lots of recreational and entertainment places where entertainment-starved citizens could find some peace, comfort and entertainment which provides much-needed breather to continue with our hectic schedules.
Governor Sindh expressed these views while inaugurating the much-awaited Port Grand Food and Entertainment Complex on Saturday. Federal Minister for Ports and Shipping Babur Khan Ghauri and Shahid Firoz, Managing Director Grand leisure Corporation was also present.
Dr Ishrat ul Ebad said that Port Grand Complex is an effort to revive the culture and traditions of old Karachi as well as to celebrate it as the City of Lights. “It would surely revive the harbor culture in a port city like Karachi,” Ebad said.
He appreciated Grand Leisure Corporation for resurrection of history and heritage as it has not only preserved the 19th century’s Napier Mole Bridge but has also converted it into a world-class tourist spot that would ultimately attract millions of people from all over the world.
Babar Ghauri said that Port Grand is a bold initiative by a private sector company despite the economic, law and order and political uncertainties in the country. He applauded the relentless efforts of Shahid Firoz, Managing Director Grand Leisure Corporation for making it a reality.
Babar Ghauri said that Port Grand project is country’s only-sea-side food and entertainment enclave, which would offer matchless attractions for the whole family to enjoy together. “Port Grand is expected to attract around 4 to 5 thousand people daily from across the country,” he hoped.
The Port Grand Complex, which has been built at 19th century’s Napier Mole Bridge (old native jetty bridge) was conceived and built by Grand Leisure Corporation with an investment of over Rs 1 billion. GLC’s scope of work includes financing, construction, maintenance and operation of all aspects pertaining to the Port Grand.
About 40 outlets have been made operational at this stage while more outlets would be opened soon. The entry fee for the Port Grand would be Rs 300 per person out of which Rs 200 would be redeemable at different food outlets and shops inside the project. The project would be open for public from Sunday evening.
Shahid Firoz, Managing Director Grand leisure Corporation informed that Port Grand project, that stretches along the 1000 feet. Karachi’s ancient 19th century native jetty bridge, spreads over an area of 200,000 square feet. The one kilometer bridge has been transformed into an entertainment and food enclave housing numerous eateries totaling 40,000 sq ft of climate-controlled area and space for kiosks of exotic Pakistani and foreign food and a variety of beverages.
He informed that the work on the project commenced in 2005 and it was expected to be completed by 2009 but the old native jetty bridge was in very bad shape after being abandoned for any transportation usage and it was also set to be demolished when Port Grand project was conceived and ancient 19th centaury monument was preserved for generations to come. GLC had to almost rebuild the whole 1 mile Old Napier Mole Bridge that includes removal of old deck slab, cleaning of rust and scaling of existing structure, strengthening of sub-structure and laying of new deck slab. This all work took around 2 year to completely revamped the bridge thus delayed the project for around 2 years.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's the latest on Emaar's Crescent Bay as reported by Express Tribune:

The Pakistan Defence Officers Housing Authority (DHA) and the Dubai-based international construction giant Emaar are at loggerheads over the much-advertised and much-delayed 108-acre Crescent Bay project in DHA Phase VIII’s waterfront zone E.

DHA has filed a petition against four companies — Emaar Giga International FZCO, Emaar Giga Karachi Limited, Emaar Properties PJSC and CEO Global Marketing Services (GMS) Shaukat Qureshi — in the Sindh High Court. It won a stay order on June 27 until the next hearing scheduled for July 12, The Express Tribune has learnt.

DHA and Emaar Giga International had signed a memorandum of understanding on May 20, 2004 to construct 46 towers in three ‘uniquely designed’ bays.

According to Emaar Pakistan’s website, each of these three bays was to be “encircled by a community with its own unique look and character, which extends from the architecture to the landscaping and the street furniture.” Crescent Bay One was set to feature a hotel, malls, a waterfront promenade, piazza, four office towers, surrounded by green spaces, parks and plazas. Crescent Bay Two was to house residential towers complete with a Waterfront Retail Arcade running along the beach. Crescent Bay Three was termed the most exclusive of the residential neighborhoods, with controlled vehicle access, and a luxurious waterfront promenade.

However, even though more than seven years have passed since the deal was inked, DHA contends that only two towers and that too only till the second floor have been constructed, even though Emaar has collected more than Rs1.5 billion from its customers in advance.

Moreover, out of the 110 people who were allotted plots in Crescent Bay, 100 of them are in litigation against Emaar and many of them are demanding their money back.

Sources in DHA said that their beef with Emaar was not only due to the fact that the international construction giant owes it Rs600 million, but also because “it was trying to create a DHA within DHA.”

DHA maintains that Emaar was trying to “clandestinely” sell Crescent Bay plots without its permission to “unauthorised parties.” The authority says it was “shocked” to learn through a letter on June 13, 2011 from CEO GMS Qureshi that his marketing company was working with Emaar Giga Karachi for the last 15 months to sell land that had been sub-let by DHA.

On June 25, 2011 DHA officers discovered GMS staff taking measurements and dimensions of the land, which the regulatory body believes was in clear violation of its agreement that mentions that no sale can move ahead unless DHA approves it. DHA immediately removed the GMS personnel from the site and took over possession of the land and the Crescent Bay project itself in “public interest”. It now wants to undertake construction of the two towers which, according to them, Emaar has abandoned.

Senior officials with DHA told The Express Tribune that it was extremely unfortunate that Emaar has not completed its commitments to the people, especially since there were huge expectations from them, given their expertise and long list of successful projects. Although DHA’s experience in mega construction projects is negligible compared to Emaar’s, it believes that with its experience of Creek Vista in Karachi, it can take off from where the international construction stopped....

Riaz Haq said...

With a world cost of living index (wcol) of just 46 relative to 100 for New York City, Karachi is the cheapest city among 131 cities in the world, according to a survey reported by Economic Intelligence Unit today.

Here's a WSJ report on it:

Moving to Singapore? Start saving: The city-state is one of most expensive cities in the world – 42% more expensive than New York – topping London, Frankfurt and Hong Kong.

The Southeast Asian city joins Tokyo, Osaka and Kobe as one of the world’s top ten most expensive cities, according to the Economist Intelligence Unit’s annual cost-of-living survey, increasingly proving that Asian cities are no longer just a cheaper outpost for expats and multinationals. Though a European city – Zurich – is still the world’s most expensive, Tokyo was the runner up, with Singapore now listed as the world’s 9th most expensive city. Singapore was listed as the 6th most expensive last year, but remarkably was ranked 97th in 2001.

The survey uses prices of goods and services such as food, transportation, housing, utilities, private schools and domestic help to calculate scores for each city, using New York as its base with a score of 100. Zurich and Tokyo scored 170 and 166, respectively, indicating that they are about 70% and 66% more expensive to live in than New York.

Australian cites, too, were well-represented on the list by Sydney (No. 7) and Melbourne (No. 8, though at least it can claim it makes up for the cost in livability). While Japan has long been known as an expensive place to live — Tokyo’s gas prices are 71% higher than New York’s — the emergence of Australia and Singapore on the list is a more recent phenomenon.

Singapore’s rise is notable, since less than a decade ago it was considered a cheap city by Western standards. Just last year, a kilo of bread would have cost US$2.86, according to the Economist’s data, but now costs US$3.19 – an 11% increase from the year before.

The rise of home prices and basic goods in the city-state has for years been a sticking point for many disgruntled Singaporeans, many of whom say government policies to allow more rich expatriates to move to the city has helped push up the cost of living. In recent months, the government has put in place various cooling measures to address high property prices, which are slowly coming down.

Jon Copestake, editor of the survey, cited exchange-rate movement as “the main driver of cost-of-living growth in Singapore, relative to other cities.” The Australian cities rose for the same reason: The Australian dollar rose sharply in value last year, which helped push its two biggest cities up the charts.

Asia is also home to the world’s cheapest places to live, particularly in South Asia. Karachi, Pakistan, came in 131st out of 131 cities, with a score of 46. This makes it three times cheaper than Singapore. Also in the bottom 10: Mumbai; New Delhi; Kathmandu, Nepal; and Dhaka, Bangladesh. India and Pakistan’s cheap labor and land costs are making the area “attractive to those bargain-hungry visitors or investors willing to brave some of the security risks that accompany such low prices,” the survey said.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Newsweek piece by writer Kamila Shamsi about her native Karachi:

You can live in Karachi your entire life without ever glimpsing the sea. This fact would surely have astounded Alexander the Great’s general, Nearchus, who sailed from what was then a harbor known to the Greeks as Krokola; it would have doubtless come as an even greater surprise to the fisherwoman Mai Kolachi, from whom the port city likely derives its modern name. Until the mid-19th century, the city that has been called Krokola, Kolachi, Kurrachee, and Karachi was little more than a harbor or a fishing village, its existence based around the Arabian Sea. The British occupied it in 1839, at which time its population was between 8,000 and 14,000.

Population figures are hardly the most imaginative way to talk about the city, and yet with Karachi it is precisely the population figures that convey why it is impossible to hold the city within your imagination rather than grasping at fragments of it. Try to wrap your head around this: in 1947, at the time of Partition, more than half the city’s 400,000 inhabitants were Hindu, most of whom migrated (by choice or otherwise) to India, and yet, despite losing half its population, by 1951 the number of Karachiwallas had grown to more than a million. You lose 50 percent and still end up more than doubling the original population; this is mathematics Karachi style. Today the figure stands at somewhere between 15 million and 18 million.

While some cities rise up toward the sky in towers of concrete and steel to accommodate their growing populations, Karachi sprawls in ungainly fashion, covering 1,360 square miles. The old British cantonment area with its Gothic spires and Anglo-Mughal cupolas and art deco fa├žades remained the center of the city until the 1960s; now it’s south of the center of south Karachi. You can live in Karachi and watch gulls swooping toward the blue-gray waves, or you can live miles inland in the shadow of barren hills, at danger from landslides. The city has a broad avenue called Sunset Boulevard, and it also has a slum named Mosquito Colony.
You’ll often hear Karachiwallas say there’s nowhere else in Pakistan they can happily live. I’ve heard it said more frequently by its women than its men. Karachi is hardly free of patriarchy, but its women are more visible, and more often to be seen in positions of authority, than elsewhere in the country. In February, when the city’s most powerful, and controversial, political party, the MQM, called for a women’s rally, the numbers that gathered were so vast (estimates vary from several hundred thousand to 1 million) that the BBC declared it the largest congregation of women ever organized in the world. In a city where votes are divided primarily along ethnic lines, it was heartening to imagine we were witnessing a new kind of campaigning—one that placed gender in the political arena and gave teeth to the phrase “women’s vote.” It sounds fanciful to me, until I remember that for the right price, Karachi buys and sells everything, even dreams.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Express Trib on additional water and railway projects for Karachi:

The Greater Karachi Water Supply Scheme or K-IV will cost Rs29 billion to pump to the city an additional supply of 260 million gallons per day (mgd) from the Indus River.

The federal government had initially refused to finance the project, citing lack of funds. The bureaucrats sitting in the capital were of the view that since provincial autonomy had been granted after the 18th amendment, Sindh should fix its own water woes. Karachi wrung its hands in despair as it doesn’t even have enough money to pay garbage collectors.

But now, upon the intervention of President Asif Ali Zardari, the federal government has agreed to foot 33% of the bill in the first phase. The remaining funds will be arranged by the provincial and district governments. The project is expected to take four years.

The K-IV project has constantly hit snags since it was conceived in 2006 by then Karachi nazim Mustafa Kamal given the severe water shortage in Karachi. The city needs 1,000 mgd but the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board only provides around 600 mgd. Leaks and water theft are the biggest drains on the system.
In another major development, the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) is likely to approve the Karachi Circular Railway project at its meeting to be held today (Thursday) in Islamabad.

The meeting will be presided over by Federal Finance Minister Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and attended by the chief secretaries and other officials from all provinces. PPP MPA Hasnain Mirza, the newly appointed member of Ecnec from Sindh, will represent the Sindh government along with senior bureaucrats of the province.

Official sources told The Express Tribune that Ecnec will take up the mega projects relating to energy, transpiration, water, industry and housing etc.

Around 14 schemes are from Sindh.

Other projects likely to be taken up at the meeting include connecting the Thar coal power transmission to national grid, the construction of Darawat Dam and Nai Gaaj Dam in Dadu district. These schemes were also presented in the last Ecnec meeting, but the government was asked to wait till next meeting.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a News story on planting of mangroves near Karachi:

Pakistan has reclaimed the world record of planting the maximum number of mangroves in a day.The Sindh Forest Department on Saturday regained its position in the Guinness Book of World Records by outpacing India.

For 14 hours, 300 social workers, volunteers and forest department employees worked ceaselessly save for a three-hour break during the high tide to planted approximately 750,000 mangrove saplings in Kharo Chan – an island village off the Keti Bandar coast. Their effort broke the record set by India in 2010 for planting 611,000 saplings in a day.

“The purpose is to highlight the importance of the mangroves in the Indus delta, its biodiversity and most of all, the welfare of the communities dependent on them for their livelihood in the precious but severely threatened ecosystem,” said Riaz Ahmed Wagan, the chief conservator of forests in Sindh.

The effort was financed by the Asian Development Bank under the Sindh Coastal Communities Development Project while the International Union for Conservation of Nature was the media facilitator for the Guinness Book of World Records.

Mangrove swamps are found in tropical and subtropical tidal areas, include estuaries and marine shorelines. The forests play an important role in protecting the coastal lines from erosion, storms, hurricanes and tsunamis.

Mangroves are an essential component of the coastal ecosystem as they help shrimps and fish to procreate and also keep the soil from eroding into the sea. The unique ecosystem in the intricate mesh of mangrove roots plays host to a number of organisms, including algae, barnacles, oysters and sponges, which all require a hard surface for anchoring as they filter feed.

Several commercially important species of fish and crustaceans breed in these forests. Shrimps and mud lobsters use the muddy bottoms as their home. But despite restoration efforts, approximately 35 percent of mangrove forests have been cleared in the past several decades.

Grassroots efforts to save mangrove forests from depletion are becoming popular across the world as their benefits become more widely known. In some countries, mangrove reforestation and mangrove restoration are under way.

Mexico became the first country to hold the world record by planting 348,493 mangrove saplings in a day followed by India with 447,874 trees. In 2009, the Sindh forest department set the world record by planting 541,176 mangroves in a single day but the Indians again broke the record a year later.

Riaz Haq said...

#Canada based #middleeast food restaurant chain Paramount Fine Foods comes to #Pakistan. #shawarma #falafel

KARACHI: Paramount Fine Foods, a Canada-based Middle Eastern cuisine franchise, is set to open its doors in Pakistan, aiming for 30 restaurants across the country in the next five years and creating employment opportunities for the youth.

Set up 17 years ago in Ontario, Canada, by Leba­nese immigrant Mohammad Fakih, Paramount now has 36 locations across Canada and plans to add another 60 restaurants around the world by the end of this year.

A memorandum of understanding was signed between Paramount Fine Foods and Pakistan Beverage Ltd (PBL) on Wednesday.

CEO and Managing Director of PBL Yasin H. Kassam and CEO of Paramount Fine Foods Saad Saleem signed the agreement for supply of carbonated and non-carbonated beverages to Paramount Fine Foods in Pakistan.

The ceremony was witnessed by Paramount Inter­na­­tional Chief Operating Officer Ali Khalil, ASA Corporation Partners Atif Khan and Shahrum Saleem, Director Operations of ASA Corporation Aman Virji, Director of PBL Zaid Yasin and General Manager of PBL Agha Muhammad Khan.

Mr Saleem said the Pakistani consumers’ food palate is expanding thanks to their travel. “With more and more people going to Dubai for vacations and getting a taste of Arab cuisine, there is demand for fine Middle Eastern dining. The roadside shawarma just doesn’t cut it. We picked the biggest Middle Eastern food chain and look forward to expanding,” he said.

Riaz Haq said...

EMAAR: Crescent Bay, Karachi

DAWN.COM | EMAAR PAKISTAN PARTNERUpdated Sep 09, 2017 02:27pm

Crescent Bay, the seafront wonder of high-rise towers set along three crescent shaped bays, will soon become your one-stop-shop solution to life, work and play.

Offering a safe and vibrant community atmosphere, Crescent Bay will combine breathtaking natural beauty with a blend of traditional and contemporary architecture. Few would be able to resist the lure of this most sought after address in the metropolis.

Most images below are interactive and can be viewed in 360 degrees. Click and hold inside the frame to move around in the surroundings (press and swipe on mobile)

With a spectacular location in the DHA Phase-VIII Extension next to Dou Darya, Crescent Bay enjoys a beautiful two-kilometre seafront along the shores of the Arabian Sea. And the three curved coastal bays give Crescent Bay a unique character.

The apartment buildings in Crescent Bay will feature a designer-fitted kitchen, with a marble bench top and an imported stainless-steel sink with mixer tap.

The apartment buildings will feature one to four bedrooms per flat. Each bedroom will come with a fitted wardrobe.

Riaz Haq said...

Serious Delays in Major #GreenLine #BRT Public Transport Project in #Karachi. #Traffic #Pakistan … via @thewire_in

Work on the extended portion has already been delayed considerably due to objections raised by the Quaid-e-Azam Mazar Management Board that saw its elevated track as obscuring the view of Muhammad Ali Jinnah’s mausoleum. The board’s by-laws prohibit any construction higher than the mausoleum’s podium – upon which its domed building stands – in its 1.2-km radius.

“If we go ahead with building the proposed elevated section of the BRT and stations that cover the entire width of MA Jinnah Road, then the [mausoleum] will not be visible from Seventh Day Adventist Hospital to the Municipal Park … and well beyond. The vision of the founding fathers and that of the architect will be compromised and it will be a loss to Karachi and to its present and future citizens,” is how architect and urban planner Arif Hasan summed up the objections in a column in the daily Dawn in May 2017. He is a member of the Quaid-e-Azam Mazar Management Board.

It took three months to address the problem through a redesigning of the project. An underpass is now being built between Guru Mandir and Al Haaj Bundoo Khan restaurant on MA Jinnah Road. From there onwards, an elevated road is planned to lead to the last stop. Work on the underpass is in its early phase while the construction of the elevated part has yet to begin.

There have been some other design-related problems.

For instance, the Sindh government sought changes in the original design passing through the Numaish Chowrangi area because, as it argued, it wanted to build other BRT tracks in the same place. It, therefore, demanded that a two-lane underpass there be widened to three lanes.

The redesign has jacked up the project’s cost exponentially, says Channa. “The original cost of the underpass was estimated at Rs 800 million but the redesigned plan – which also envisages an integrated bus terminal for Green, Red, Yellow and Blue lines, a turnaround facility and parking for 25 buses – has increased its cost to 2.5 billion (Pakistani) rupees,” he says.

The Sindh government has also raised objections to the elevated portion from Bundu Khan restaurant onwards to the end. It says an elevated track will be difficult to expand for future BRT lines and argues that the track be constructed at ground level.

A final decision is yet to be made on this – as well on the project’s extension to the Merewether Clock Tower – which may cause further delay in its completion.

“Whether the Green Line project will benefit Karachi or not, its delayed construction has ruined our business,” says M Jawed Qureshi who heads the Gulbahar Traders Association that represents shopkeepers at a ceramics and sanitary-ware market located almost halfway between Guru Mandir and Nazimabad. Demolition work and digging for the project damaged and narrowed main roads because of which customers avoided visiting the market, he says. “This affected 15% wholesale and over 50% retail business.” Also affected was the livelihood of over 2,500 labourers and 550 goods carriers working at the market, he adds.

Major traffic jams could be witnessed at many places along the under-construction track, causing massive inconvenience to everyone concerned — commuters, transport operators, traders and street vendors, among others. “No diversions or alternative routes were provided to [redirect] traffic during the entire period of construction, wreaking havoc on commuting time and businesses,” says Rehan Hashmi, former member of the National Assembly from Karachi and chairman of the city’s District Municipal Corporation (Central).

Riaz Haq said...

Normalcy returning to #Pakistan's #Monsoon2020-drenched #Karachi as water begins to recede. Every year, many cities/towns in Pakistan struggle to cope with the annual monsoon (July-Sept) deluge, drawing criticism of the government’s lack of planning.

Normalcy began slowly returning to Pakistan’s financial capital Karachi on Saturday after flood waters from days of monsoon rains that killed 47 people receded, enabling relief work in the city of 15 million.
Amid a pause in the rain, soldiers and civil authorities intensified efforts to reach people who were stranded. The heavy rains hit the southern port city Aug. 23, forcing people to evacuate to other areas of Karachi.

Most of the city was flooded by rains that continued until Friday. It downed power lines, causing widespread outages leaving large numbers of people without electricity and mobile phone service.

According to a military statement, relief and rescue efforts were in full swing in flood-hit areas and engineers cleared the city’s key roads of water with pumps. It said food was being supplied to rain-affected people at their homes in Karachi.

Every year, many cities in Pakistan struggle to cope with the annual monsoon deluge, drawing criticism of the government’s lack of planning. The monsoon season runs from July through September.

Riaz Haq said...

About SPAR Pakistan

SPAR is a supermarket offering fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh meat, grocery and household products with an in-store pharmacy and bakery.

SPAR is an international retail chain with over 13,000+ stores in 48 countries. In Pakistan SPAR Supermarket has 3 stores and has plans to expand across the country.

The store has its presence in two locations in Karachi; one at Alamgir Road, Sharfabad and the other at Miran Shah Road, Muhammad Ali Society/KDA scheme 1. The Faisalabad store is located on Eden Valley Road.

KARACHI SPAR SHARFABAD MS Tower, Alamgir Road, Sharfabad, Karachi SPAR KDASaima Twin Tower, Miran Shah Road, M.Ali Society, Karachi Map linkSPAR NORTH NAZIMABAD Shahrah-e-Humayun, North Nazimabad, Block F, Karachi. SPAR D.H.A PHASE VIII9-C, Lane 4, Phase VIII, Zulfiqar & Al Murtuza commercial area, Phase 8 Defence Housing Authority, Karachi, 75500

Riaz Haq said...

Severe urban flooding in Karachi after record heavy downpour
Roads inundated, power outages reported after city gets non-stop rainfall

The port city was inundated on Monday after it received record rainfall overnight which continued till almost 11am in most areas, leaving routine life in Karachi paralysed.

The southern areas of Karachi, including DHA, Clifton, Kemari, Saddar and other localities reportedly received the highest amount of rainfall after a slow-moving thunderstorm stalled over the city during early morning hours.Most areas of DHA and Clifton were inundated, with water levels in some localities almost waist-high. At least five people died due to electrocution across the metropolis.

Main I.I Chundrigar, DHA, Clifton Underpass, Delhi Colony road, Sharae Faisal and other major arteries of the city were also inundated. The city's traffic police said that underpasses at Punjab Chowrangi, Abdullah Shah Ghazi Shrine and at KPT were closed for traffic due to water accumulation.

Highways leading out of the city were also inundated due to excessive rainfall. The Karachi - Hyderabad track of the highway was closed due to flooding.At least 120mm of rainfall has been recorded in district south, with areas near the coast reporting higher amounts of rainfall. Citizens of the port city also complained about prolonged power outages on social media.

Pakistan Army and Rangers personnel are busy in relief efforts after the unprecedented rain spell. At least 388 dewatering pumps have been set up by the armed forces and the civil administration to clear the worst affected localities.

Gujjar, Orangi and Mehmoodabad nullahs are reportedly flowing at full capacity, making it necessary to de-water submerged areas with pumps.

City Administrator Murtaza Wahab said it rained up to 126mm in certain areas of Karachi in three hours. He added that the storm drains and nullahs are taking water "but the process is slow".

Wahab said the administration is trying its best to "address the situation" and pumping stations, installed at various spots, are working at full capacity.

Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah has directed all relevant departments to expedite work and also issued orders to deploy suction pumps across the city to speed up the process of draining rainwater.

Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif, taking notice of the torrential rains in the metropolis, said he was deeply saddened by the tragic losses suffered in the city.

He express his confidence in the Sindh government and added he has offered to extend every possible support to the provincial government.

CM Murad addresses the media

Chief Minister Murad Ali Shah, in a briefing to the media, said a very heavy spell of rain was witnessed in the city in various areas of district south. He highlighted that around 223mm of rain fell during a span of 15 hours.

The chief minister said that authorities were facing challenges in draining flooded areas. The CM added that due to high tide at sea, the drainage of water is slow.

The provincial chief executive said teams and machinery has been deployed and ministers and other senior officials were on the roads to supervise the work.

Murad said the worst affected areas were in district south, which includes DHA, Lyari, Saddar and other cantonment areas.

Karachi has seen an increase in the amount of rainfall it receives per annum over the last few years, with monsoonal anomalies getting more frequent due to climate change.

‘Karachi! We stand with you’

Riaz Haq said...

The road to the city of the future: evictions, demolitions and land reclamation.


WHEN: December 2022

WHERE: An under-construction development on land reclaimed from the Arabian Sea, Defence Housing Authority, Phase-VIII extension, Karachi

The apartment I was being shown did not exist, but no matter — until some decades ago, the ground beneath us didn’t either. On Google Earth, you can see this coastal appendage mutate over time, lengthening and fattening: Little rectangular plots divide and multiply amid fading foliage, extending an expensive Karachi neighborhood, pushing back the Arabian Sea. Inside the apartment that did not yet exist — we were inside a temporary model unit — the sales associate clacked past a six-person dining table to the far end of the living room.

“And here, you have a floor-to-ceiling oceanfront view,” she said brightly. I nodded appreciatively at the blank wall.

Later, we climbed up to the roof of the sales office and watched the construction taking place along the water’s edge. A paraglider swooped over mounds of upturned earth; a black kite dodged the long arm of a tower crane. The sea was pockmarked with distant trawlers. Ground broke on the first of 19 towers last year; when the project is completed, by the end of 2025, this sales office — including the model apartment we just toured — will be dismantled: Its glossy floors and gilded chandeliers exist only to pitch high-end vertical living to deep-pocketed Pakistanis. Alina, whose job it is to sell this dream, grew up in Dubai and is afraid of heights.

“I’d consider it, maybe, if someone gave me the penthouse,” she said, with a shrug.

In Karachi, facts are always in flux. The city is home to 15 million people— or 20, or 30, depending on which account convinces you. It has long been touted as one of the world’s fastest-growing cities, but preliminary census data indicates a possible downtick in population in recent years, findings that will no doubt be hotly contested in coming months. It is a city of opportunity: Like New Yorkers, most Karachi-wallahs are originally from somewhere else, drawn like moths to the metropolis.

Still, to appreciate the current contestation over Karachi, take any small stretch of land — say, along the city’s coastline, which is 90 or 48 or 27 kilometers long, based on whom you cite — and watch it morph before your eyes, like an optical illusion, depending on who is telling its story.
It is a city of danger: Last year, more than 78,000 vehicles and 30,000 mobile phones were snatched at gunpoint; dozens of people were killed when they resisted. (Most people in Karachi can relate multiple genres of mugging stories: absurdist comedy, thriller, tragedy.) A hundred years ago, it was no more than a cluster of small fishing villages. Seventy-five years ago, it was the capital of the new state of Pakistan, welcoming hundreds of thousands of refugees from neighboring India. Today, it is violently remaking itself into a city of the future, through evictions, demolitions and land reclamation

[Read: The Dispossession of District Six]

All cities contain multitudes; this is not a particularly astute observation. Still, to appreciate the current contestation over Karachi, take any small stretch of land — say, along the city’s coastline, which is 90 or 48 or 27 kilometers long, based on whom you cite — and watch it morph before your eyes, like an optical illusion, depending on who is telling its story.

The developer of this particular gated community is the scion of a United Arab Emirates-based Pakistani magnate,