8/18/13Ethnicity and urbanisation | Oped | :: The Kathmandu Post ::www.ekantipur.com/the-kathmandu-post/2012/11/27/oped/ethnicity-and-urbanisation/242194.html2/3
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From the perspective of the growth of urban centers, it is apparent that “net internal migration from rural areas” hasplayed a substantial role in urbanisation. According to UN modulated projections, Pakistan’s 48.9 percent population willbe living in the urban hubs by 2030.Karachi has a jerky demographic history. Until 1965, it was a Sindhi majority city, in latter two decades it observed awin-win balance between Sindhi-Balochi, Urdu, and Pashtu ethnic groups. Today, it is again Sindhi-cum-Baloch majoritycity; however politically ethno-linguist Urdu minority of the city rules it. The city has observed around four waves of violence since 1972, which have taken lives of beyond ten thousand citizens.Governance, demography and discriminationSix major demographic groups form the politics of ethnic interests in Karachi. Their population-wise sequence would beindigenous Sindhi and Baloch; Urdu and Bihari, Pashtun and Punjabi migrants; indigenous miscellaneous group of naturalised Parsies, Rajasthanis, and illegal migrants and refugees from Afghanistan, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Iran.The peculiar aspect of this ethnic politics is the contest over the resources and opportunities, in which Urdu speakingMuhajir minority rules not only the city but also Sindh province in many ways.In Karachi, the ethnic minority through ethnically biased governance and legislation is discriminating the developmentof indigenous people. During the rule of General Musharaf, the electoral constituencies of Sindh were altered in amanner that the indigenous majority may win lesser seats in the provincial and federal legislature.Recently, the legislation over a controversial and popularly rejected Sindh Local Government Act has stirred up aninsurgency like situation. The Act administratively separates Karachi from rest of the province and the Mayor of the cityis given more authorities then the Chief Minister of Sindh. It has at least three discriminative aspects. By administrativelyconverting five districts of Karachi into one, it will give edge to ethno-linguistic Urdu speaking minority, which is theabsolute majority in only one district, Central Karachi. The Act gives authorities to the Mayor to decree demolishing of ahouse or a settlement. This has resulted into demolishing of two historical Sindhi Hindus settlements of Karachi withintwo weeks of its legislation in October 2012. The other ethnic groups of the city fear that this authority would be usedagainst Sindhi, Baloch, Pashtun and Punjabi settlements, which together form nearly 70 percent of the metropolitan.Lessons for the South AsiaThe ongoing urbanisation in South Asia is bound to create ethnic diversity in the existing and emerging cities;therefore, if this aspect is not part of urban planning, the ethnic chaos is inevitable. Avoiding urban conflicts, the rightto rule and opportunities needs to be ensured to the ethnic indigenous population.The urbanisation in South Asia will also be carrying along the issues like poor governance, limited resources, housing,non-futuristic planning; infrastructure inadequacy; transportation lethargy and environmental problems. This requiresadopting modern frameworks of urban planning, comprehensive master plans, efficient land-use, and appropriate zoneregularization as well as building control. The future of South Asian cities could only be save through non-traditional andfuturistic vision and planning that does not compromise rights of the land, native population as well as city dwellers.Shah is Executive Director at the Institute for Social Movements, Pakistan
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