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Archive for November, 1995

Immigration Blues

One of the major factors contributing to Karachi’s bad law and order situation is the unchecked flow of illegal immigrants. Of the estimated population of 10.8 million, 4.8 million are new Sindhis (or Mohajirs), 1.5 million Punjabis, 1.5 million Pathans, 1.4 million Bangladeshis, 500,000 ethnic Sindhis, 500,000 Kashmiris, 200,000 Afghans, 150,000 Balochis, 50,000 Iranians, 50,000 Burmese (Arakan origin), 150,000 miscellaneous. 1.2 million Bangladeshi illegal immigrants reached Karachi after 1971 in different stages, viz (1) 1972-1977 approximately 200,000 (2) 1977-1985 approximately 300,000 (3) 1985-1995 approximately 1 million. The Afghan population, also illegal, has now reduced by about 50% from its mid-80s high of 400,000. Most of the Burmese Muslims of Arakan origin entering Karachi after 1978 are illegal, while the illegal Iranian immigrants came in three waves. About 750,000 Pakistani citizens of Mohajir origin stranded in Bangladesh have come to Karachi, half a million during the period 1972-1977 whereas 250,000 have come from 1978 onwards leaving a balance of 250,000 still stranded in Bangladesh who want to come to Pakistan. Pakistan has a moral obligation to accept these Pakistanis of Mohajir origin stranded in Bangladesh. About 150,000 each of Punjabi and Pathan origin also came back from former East Pakistan, very few to Karachi. Of the original 1.5 million refugees from India and their descendants, 500,000 have since merged into the Bangladeshi mainstream. Between 1972 till date, almost half a million Mohajirs (between the ages 15 to 25) directly from areas in India have joined their brethren in Pakistan, almost all of them illegally and mostly now resident in Karachi. Between 1972 till date, there has been an addition to the population of 3 million people from outside Karachi, only 750,000 legally. Karachi’s population being 5.5 million in 1971, has almost doubled now, the maximum influx being 1.5 million Mohajirs and 1.2 million Bangladeshis. With employment opportunities increasing in Punjab, NWFP as well as Kashmir and as the law and order situation has worsened, depressing the economic opportunities in Karachi, on the average there has been a consistent reverse flow in the direction of Punjab, NWFP and Kashmir. Though there continues to be a fair turnover, the population figures of those originating from these areas has decreased (especially in the last 5 years) by about 15% on an average over the past two decades.

The natural growth of any modern metropolitan city is to rise by 15-20% every ten years. Given this computation, Karachi’s population should have been maximum around 8 million today, even then the present socio-economic infrastructure and services would have been barely adequate to cover the needs of the citizens. Imagine then the plight of a city that has to cater to 3 million more residents than its already overburdened services can cope with. In fact Karachi’s housing, water, electricity, gas, sewerage, roads, transportation, medical facilities, etc can give only “below average” service to less than half the present population. The quality of life available in this city has, therefore, rapidly deteriorated. With the reduction of employment opportunities in the city, the social structure has started to coalesce around ethnic lines as each racial community competes for the steadily reducing number of jobs. Though in numbers, unlike the Pathans, the Punjabis and Kashmiris do not live in “ghettos” and as such are non-existent as a community force in Karachi, even compared to the illegal Bangladeshis. This sharing of the ever-reducing economic pie, which as a process remained quite fair till 1985, became a racially selfish exercise after the “Bushra Zaidi” incident (named after the riots when the school-going girl was run over by a yellow minibus). The youth of the Mohajir community came together at perceived discrimination and persecution due to their ethnic background, making a political movement called the Mohajir Qaumi Movement (MQM). While the other communities did not resort to the same “circling of the wagons”, with its solid vote bank in “ghettos” the MQM quickly became a major political force in the urban areas of Sindh. Linked with its problems in the other urban areas of Sindh where the ethnic Sindhis in rural areas surrounding these urban enclaves were in an overwhelming majority, MQM’s birth inadvertently initiated the present decade of racial strife (1985-1995).


Hash “Brown”

Several years after the application of the Pressler Law in letter and in spirit on Pakistan, effectively drying up US economic and military aid to Pakistan, the Brown Amendment has been passed in overwhelming fashion by US Congress. The most important factor in the public mind regarding the stoppage of US Aid was the refusal of the US to honour the contractual obligation of delivery of F-16s (how many only God and the US $ 350 million plus discrepancy in accounting can tell) already paid for, therefore the critics point to this lack of success as a rank failure, papered over by the sop of the Senator Brown initiative to allow the rest of the military equipment stuck in the pipeline to flow through. The Ms Benazir Regime is naturally effusive over the Amendment’s approval as they point to a significant turnaround in our relationship with the US, which at one point of time in 1993 was about to declare us a “terrorist nation” in the company of such luminaries as Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan etc. In a recent article former VCOAS, Gen (Retd) K.M Arif, has been scathingly sarcastic about the “achievements” of the Ms Benazir Regime.


Leadership and health

For the second time in four months, Russian President Boris Yeltsin has been hospitalized because of heart problems, the fact that the executive head of the second leading power in the world is hors de combat (and virtually incommunicado) is a matter of great concern within Russia and in the outside world, though one daresays for widely differing reasons. Indifferent health of executive heads of major powers always excites apprehension as in the periodic medical bulletins of US Presidents Eisenhower (1952-1960) and Reagan (1982-1988). Even President Bush, very much an outdoor man in the mould of Carter and Clinton, saw attention focussed on his ability to govern after he collapsed during a dinner speech in Tokyo. Successive Soviet leaders Brezhnev, Andropov and Chernienko went through protracted illnesses while the world waited on a lingering death watch. Such is the effect of inter-action of the health of world leaders with world events that US President Clinton does not spare a single photo-opportunity (photo-ops) for a jog, thereby symbolizing the dynamism of the only remaining Super-power in the world.


The Economics of Despair

Just a day before the Presidential Address marking the beginning of the 3rd Parliamentary year for the present National Assembly, Mr VA Jafarey, Advisor to the PM on Finance and Economic Affairs, made a “surprise” announcement on prime time national media that the Federal Government had decided to devalue the Rupee by 7% and increase fuel prices by a commensurate amount while imposing some “temporary” regulatory duties (10% on dutiable and 5% on non-dutiable as long as the total tariff did not exceed 65%). Wheat, fertilizers and import of power generation plants under the energy policy (upto a maximum of 3000 MW) were exempted. The official US dollar parity with the Pakistani Rupee has weakened to Pakistan’s detriment from Rs31.85 to Rs 34.25, a difference of Rs 2.40. The Pakistani Rupee has thus depreciated Rs 3.28 or (10.59%) from Rs 30.97 in the four months since the Federal Budget in June 1995, unofficially it will be pegged closer to Rs 35 (an actual devaluation of 13%), the figure it should “officially” cross by end December 1995. One feels that the Government should have gone the whole distance in one go instead of creeping to that figure.