The metropolitan city of Karachi has always had its share of traffic, but of late, Muhammad Ali Jinnah Road which connects central Karachi to its major port has been found jam packed.
Karachi, one of the world’s fastest growing cities and the third biggest by population has the worst public transport system globally.
Roads are filled with potholes. Not all traffic signals are automated, and it’s common to see drivers breaking red lights. Yet the former capital is home to Pakistan’s main ports and the regional headquarters for companies such as Standard Chartered Plc and Unilever Plc, helping it generate half of the nation’s tax revenue.
As the army controls the richer areas of the town, the rest is divided among the provincial and federal governments. The funds raised are distributed to other parts of the country. Last year, Karachi’s mayor, Waseem Akhtar had only 12% administrative control of the city.
“Karachi, despite its importance, is a political orphan,” said Arsalan Ali Faheem, a consultant at DAI, a Bethesda, Maryland-based company that advises on development projects. “The federal government is limited in what it can do, and the city government controls less than a quarter of the city. It means that Karachi’s problems belong simultaneously to everyone and no one.”
The chaos occurred first in August when the downpour flooded many parts of the city for over a week. There were about 64 deaths, while 10,000 people had to be rescued. Many were trapped without electricity as a result of the flooding. Mobile phone services and ATM’s also stopped working.
It was after this calamity that Prime Minister Imran Khan visited the city and announced a development package worth 1.1 trillion rupees ($6.8 billion). This includes the bus project and a circular railway system.
Khan’s federal government announced 162 billion rupees for mega projects in the city last year including transport, but city officials reported that no funds were ever released earlier this year. The federal government said in response that it has spent 24.65 billion rupees up to June. An allocation of 17.9 billion rupees has been made for the current fiscal year.
“Karachi has yet to find a humane way to address land encroachment that stymies development and relocate people without incurring immense political blowback,” said Weinstein.