Noted journalist and human rights worker IA Rehman traced the history of the emergence of Karachi as a centre of trade, commerce and, later, political activity.
He was speaking as keynote speaker at the Fifth Karachi Conference that concluded on Sunday. Rehman said that Karachi had a strong presence of traders and lawyers, in addition to a flourishing Zoroastrian (Parsi) community but communal politics came late to Karachi.
It was during the Khilafat Movement which, according to him, was backed both by Hindus and Muslims. Their main demand was the separation of Sindh from Bombay. The 1932 resolution for the separation of Sindh from Bombay was totally secular, he said.
Sindh, said Rehman, had the Pakistan Scheme in 1938 while the Lahore Resolution had it in 1940. He said the Lahore Resolution of 1940 and the Sindh Assembly’s resolution of 1943 came true in December 1971 with the emergence of Bangladesh because both resolutions had spoken of “separate Muslim states”.
Rehman said the importance of Karachi came about with the emergence of Pakistan in 1947 when Karachi was chosen to be the capital.
Speaking at a session titled, “The proposed rehabilitation of Saddar”, architect and town planner Hafeez Habibi said that old Karachi was known for its architecture and glory but things changed with the onset of industrialisation when there was a shift from the close-knit community spirit to machines.
Habibi, with an illustrious career in developing planning and project designing behind him, including a stint with Nespak, said, “Today Karachi is a city with a dilapidated environment, encroachments, and unplanned and chaotic traffic.”
He went on to say, “We understand that no intervention can be meaningful till this is made part of the overall national development.” After the Industrial Revolution, the West was faced with similar challenges due to urbanisation.
In such a milieu of psychological and intellectual change, he said, it was felt imperative to hold consultations with stakeholders. Today, added Habibi, there was unmitigated traffic congestion in the Saddar area due to excessive transportation routes and cross-vehicular activity.