Absence of ownership for ‘orphan’ Karachi lamented

As it started raining in the city on Tuesday afternoon under the influence of a fresh monsoon weather system, a seminar titled ‘Ownership of Karachi’ got underway at the PMA (Pakistan Medical Association) House.

Concerned Citizens Alliance Coordinator Dr Mirza Ali Azhar moderated the event. He said in his welcome note that the alliance is an apolitical forum where the citizens who are concerned about the issues plaguing the country, particularly the city, can talk about them.

Dr Azhar said the country is witnessing an economic, social and political meltdown, thus the event has been titled ‘The Great Meltdown’. As for Karachi in particular, he said that there is nobody to take responsibility of this “orphan” city.

“Neither is there any ownership of the metropolis nor does anyone appear willing to take ownership. The situation in DHA is no better than that in Orangi Town. All the areas are struggling with the same problems,” he pointed out. “Nobody is sparing a thought for the health issues the daily commuters would have to face later in their lives due to the damaged roads and the diseases that would spread after the rains are over.”

Censuses

City planner and architect Arif Hasan discussed the population censuses of 1981, 1998 and 2017, remarking on how Karachi’s demography, ethnic composition, and literacy, employment and marital rates have transformed. He compared the city’s statistics with those of Lahore and Delhi. Hasan said a census only gives us details about population structure, socio-economic well-being and human settlements, but it does not explain the trends, which can only be understood by comparing the results of the latest census with the previous ones.

Demography

Starting with demography, he said Karachi’s population increased from 5,437,984 to 9,856,318, or by 259,902 per year, between the 1981 and 1998 censuses, and from 6,168,576 to 16,024,894, or by 324,661 per year, between 1998 and 2017.

He added that Karachi’s density increased from 2,794 to 4,543 persons per square kilometre, which makes it the largest and fastest growing city in Pakistan in terms of population. He mentioned that in Karachi, local and political leaders have questioned the census results and insisted that the population of the city is over 25 million.

He said that political circles believe Karachi’s population has been understated to maintain the present status quo in the federation as because increased population will change the number of Karachi’s seats in the national and provincial assemblies, as well as the share of Sindh in the National Finance Commission.

Hasan said Karachi’s population makes up 60 per cent of Sindh’s urban population, while in comparison, Lahore has 27.42 per cent of Punjab’s urban population, Peshawar 34.34 per cent of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s and Quetta 29.34 per cent of Balochistan’s.

Ethnic makeup

Talking about Karachi’s ethnic composition, he said 42.3 per cent of the population is Urdu-speaking and 10.67 per cent is Sindhi-speaking, while 80.94 per cent of Lahore’s population is Punjabi-speaking and 90.17 per cent of Peshawar’s is Pashto-speaking.

He said that between 1998 and 2017, the increase in Karachi’s population has been more than the increase in the population of all the urban areas of Sindh put together. The Urdu-speaking population has decreased, while Pashto-, Sindhi- and Seraiki-speaking populations have increased in the same period, he added.

He said Urdu-speakers are concentrated in District Central, where they make up 70.77 per cent of the population, and in Korangi, where they comprise 61.34 per cent of the population. The Pashto-speaking population is mainly concentrated in District West, and Sindhi-speaking mainly in Malir, he added.

Marital rate

The architect detailed that the important age group in a census is between 15 and 24 years, and literacy and marriage rates in this age group, of women in particular, are important social indicators.

He said that the number of married women in this age group decreased from 66.71 per cent in 1961 to 28.54 per cent in 1998, and increased to 30.87 per cent in 2017.

However, he added, married men in this age group decreased from 13.39 per cent to 10 per cent between 1981 and 1998, and increased to 11.24 per cent in 2017.

He pointed out that Karachi has an overwhelming majority of unmarried adolescents in the 15-24 age group, and that the number of married women in this age group in Lahore has continued to decrease over the years.

However, he remarked, in Delhi this number was 38.23 per cent in 2001 — much higher than that of Karachi or Lahore — but fell dramatically to 31.25 per cent in 2011, which means Delhi is much conservative than Karachi and Lahore.

He said the divorce rate for women in Delhi (0.17 per cent in 2011) is lower than in Lahore (0.7 per cent in 2017) or Karachi (0.73 per cent in 2017).

Literacy rate

Hasan said that in 1981 Karachi’s literacy rate was much higher than that of Lahore, and this trend continued through 1998. However, he added, in 2017 Karachi’s overall literacy clocked in at 78 per cent, while Lahore’s was 84.25 per cent.

He said female literacy in Karachi in 2017 was 77.79 per cent, while in Lahore it stood at 84.5 per cent, which means that Karachi’s performance between 1998 and 2017 has been much slower than that of Lahore.

Delhi’s performance has been exceptional, as in 2011 its overall literacy rate was 86.21 per cent, with that of women 80.76 per cent and of men 90.41 per cent, he added.

He pointed out that Karachi’s District Central has the highest literacy as well as employment rate in the city at 81.51 per cent and 34.7 per cent respectively, while it has the second highest divorce rate (0.6 per cent) and the lowest marital rate (60.25 per cent). He also pointed out that Malir has the lowest literacy rate in Karachi at 63.69 per cent, as well as the highest marital rate (63.61 per cent) and the lowest divorce rate (0.31 per cent).

Housing

Hasan said Karachi’s housing census figures do not paint the actual picture of the housing situation. There are 2.73 million households and 2.73 million housing units, which means there is no housing shortage in the city, he remarked. Town planner and architect Dr Fazal Noor stressed the need for developing Karachi’s master plan, and collectively working towards addressing the issues facing the city.

Published in The News 17 August 2022

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