In a landmark policy statement issued on the eve of Pakistan’s 72nd Independence Day, Nadeem Nusrat, Chairman of the U.S. based nonprofit Voice of Karachi (VOK) has set out the primary components of the constitution that will govern Greater Karachi, a region comprising urban Sindh Province of Pakistan. Issuing the chief features of the constitution, VOK chairman Nadeem Nusrat repeated his demand for the establishment and worldwide recognition of Karachi as an autonomous region.
VOK has demanded that the autonomous region, proposed to be called Greater Karachi, would
consist of most of the urban areas of Sindh province, to include all of Karachi, and be created within Pakistan’s geographical boundaries. The basic principles of the constitution would directly address the correction of on-going human rights abuses, economic exploitations, and the manipulation of governing rights in Sindh Province’s urban areas. When the world-wide community begins to appreciate these issues facing tens of millions of people, it will, as history has taught us, eventually rise and support this demand for Greater Karachi and the true spirit of democracy at the foundation of the proposed principles of the constitution.
In explaining the salient features of the proposed constitution for Greater Karachi, Mr. Nusrat said that this autonomous region will continue to be an integral part of Pakistan, though with greater control over its resources and internal affairs. The Federation will continue to have full control over the country’s foreign, defense and fiscal policies, similar to the status the Indian administered Kashmir enjoyed until the recent constitutional changes made by Indian Government.
“Under the proposed constitution, Greater Karachi, will have its own parliament headed by a chief executive who will be directly elected by the state’s voters. The Greater Karachi Parliament will only deal with legislative matters pertaining to the region. The members of the Parliament will neither have any role in the election of the state’s chief executive, nor will they have access to discretionary development funds. These two features will, in turn, greatly reduce corruption and the abhorring politics of horse trading”, Mr. Nusrat explained.
Under the plan, all administrative issues such as law and order, education, health, sanitation, housing, town planning, and transport will be under the control of the local governments within Greater Karachi, which will be directly elected by the town’s voters. Mr. Nusrat noted that is a model found in every developed country where the local governments are empowered to look after all of their owncivic issues. This provision of the constitution will ensure that the people directly impacted by local government policies are the same people who have the voting rights to elect their government officials.
Mr. Nusrat pointed out that, “The creation of autonomous regions within sovereign states is not a new phenomenon at all. In fact, the demand for Greater Karachi is strictly in line with the historic 1940 Lahore Resolution which had called for the creation of ‘autonomous states’ in India, and eventually led to the creation of Pakistan. By way of comparison, the benefits that Iraq is reaping following the creation of an autonomous Kurdish Region are another example that reinforces our demand for the creation of Greater Karachi within Pakistan. This Kurdish-controlled territory in Iraq has fast emerged as a peaceful and thriving region where people of all faiths and ethnicities are playing their part in the region’s economic development and peace.”
He went on to observe that the necessity and therefore the demand by VOK for the creation of Greater Karachi is the direct result of racist policies of Sindh’s corrupt, backward and fascist-minded landed elite which has deliberately kept the province’s Mohajir population detached from being a source of governance. Sindh’s rural leadership has done this through measures such as quota systems and disenfranchisements intended solely to suppress the rights and legitimate interest of the Mohajirs.
Mohajirs are the descendants of those who had migrated to Pakistan from India after India’s partition in 1947 and have been subject the racist and prejudicial actions of the government since that time.
Karachi is one of the largest and most populace cities in the world. Karachi has been by far and away the primary source of tax revenues to Pakistan’s national exchequer since the country’s inception in 1947. The State of Pakistan, however, has consistently refused to recognize and resolve the issues of basic human rights and living conditions that Karachi has faced for decades, and has continued to treat the residence of Karachi as a people living in an occupied territory.
The urban Sindh population, the majority of which consist of young Mohajirs, is facing multiple challenges at the moment such as lack of employment and growth opportunities, poverty, high handedness of non-local paramilitary rangers, extortion by various law enforcement agencies and religious extremists, acute water shortage, frequent power outages, enforced disappearances, extrajudicial executions and repressive quota system.
Despite the fact that the population of Karachi is the overwhelming source of tax revenues which have been funding the province’s economy (Sindh’s rural areas contribute less than 5 percent of the provincial tax revenue) the racist Sindh regime refuses to fund basic needs of the Karachi population.
For similar reasons, that same racist regime has for decades refused to recognize the actual population of Karachi and other urban areas of Sindh, Karachi in particular.
The illegal, unethical and undemocratic practice to undercount the number of citizens residing in Karachi reduces by one half the true number of representatives for whom the citizens of Karachi are entitled to vote in the provincial and national legislative bodies The rural population, on the other hand, has systematically spiked its numbers in each census through a combination of undemocratic and illegal means. The democratic rule of one-person one-vote has been completely ignored. This illegal denial of the voting rights of the citizens of Karachi has also effectively and intentionally caused a Mohajir from becoming the chief minister of the province.
In response to this issue and how it will be handled under the proposed constitution, Mr. Nusrat stated “This is why we have ensured in the Greater Karachi’s proposed constitution that every permanent resident will be entitled to hold any office irrespective of their ethnicity, religion, gender or region.”
Highlighting how Sindh’s racist government has been violating the province’s urban population, Nadeem Nusrat said that even though the 18th Amendment to Pakistan’s constitution requires all provincial governments to devolve all civic issues, such as education, health, transport, roads management, sanitation, water and power, to local governments, Sindh government has unashamedly has refused to honor this constitutional obligation. On the contrary, Sindh’s bigoted government has continued to use its fake rural majority to enact a series of legislation that has deprived municipal bodies of urban Sindh of both funds and administrative powers. Karachi’s elected municipal body does not even have control over trash management. As a consequence of this lack of municipal authority, towns and local governments are paralyzed to provide any help when even a few centimeters of rainfall causes major flooding and sanitation issues in the city.
Karachi is the only city in the world of this size, Nadeem Nusrat pointed out, which lacks even a basic central commute and disaster management system. It is not a matter of funding; it is a matter of the Sindh government’s refusal, based upon their racist policies, to provide these basic services to the citizens of Karachi. That is morally wrong.
Mr. Nusrat summarized the various problems by commenting that, “it is now evident beyond any
reasonable doubt that Karachi and other urban areas in Sindh cannot expect justice in the current administrative set up of Pakistan and deserve a separate, autonomous status. The Greater Karachi plan that Voice of Karachi has proposed is the only viable and plausible solution that could resolve the longstanding grievances of urban Sindh. It is also the only solution to bring lasting peace in the city.”
“Denying basic human rights to Mohajirs and other urban Sindh citizens is unacceptable on a number of fronts. Besides, there is a real threat to security that is a very genuine possibility. Given that many extremist religious groups are operating in urban Sindh with absolute impunity, VOK fears that urban Sindh’s unemployed, frustrated youth, having no way or hope to rise above poverty could easily fall prey to the deadly trap of those extremists who are able to offer the youth food, jobs and a feeling of belonging. In the wake of ISIS’s recent announcement in which it vowed to make Pakistan its next bastion of power, this is a very serious situation and requires urgent steps. The VOK’s Greater Karachi proposal has the real ability of providing for the youth and blunting the lure of the extremist,” explained VOK chairman.
Nadeem Nusrat added that Pakistan’s ever-deepening economic crisis, political infighting, foreign policy failures, growing international isolation, and ethnic conflicts are ample evidence to prove that Pakistan’s current constitutional and political structure is a complete failure. The increasing ethnic unrest also proves that the demand for the creation of ‘autonomous states’ made in the 1940 Lahore Resolution was the best governing solution for an ethnically divided region such as Pakistan. The time has finally come to honor the true aspiration of Pakistan’s founding fathers and create multiple constituent states within Pakistan. Autonomous Karachi along with autonomous KPK, Balochistan, Gilgit, Baltistan, Punjab, and rural Sindh will make Pakistan both viable and stable. It is time for the
world-wide community to recognize these human rights and economic abuses imposed on the people of Karachi and demand a change from Pakistan.
As a concluding remark, Mr. Nusrat, stressing the importance of religious freedom, said that the proposed constitution of Greater Karachi will also guarantee absolute religious freedom to the followers of every faith and belief, and proposes stricter sentences for those who violate a citizens rights of religious freedom.
As to the process of finalizing the draft constitution, the VOK Chairman added that, “the team of experts working on the constitution is tirelessly working to make it an ideal, yet functional, document that could not only guarantee rights and liberties of every resident of urban Sindh, but could also work as a model document for the rest of the country. However, the team also understands that it is an ever-evolving document and will welcome any suggestion that might help make it even better.”
Voice of Karachi is a U.S.-based nonprofit advocacy group which is working to raise global
awareness about the systematic political, economic, social and educational persecution of millions of ethnic Urdu-speaking Mohajirs whose majority lives in Pakistan’s Sindh Province. To gain moreinformation about these human rights abuses occurring in the Singh Providence, please visit the VOK website at, www.voiceofkarachi.org.