Monday, January 12, 2009

KARACHI Post-Partition

Karachi on the Eve of Partition

On the eve of partition, in spatial terms, Karachi consisted of four distinct areas. One, the old pre-British city and its post-British suburbs which consisted of narrow winding lanes, high densities and wholesale markets. These areas were occupied by the "native" merchant classes and the proletariat that worked for them. The area had a large number of mosques, dharmshalas and Hindu temples. Collectively, this area was known as the "native" city and celebrated Hindu and Muslim festivals with fervour. Two, Saddar Bazaar, which was the Europeanised shopping area, consisting of wide roads on a grid iron plan. This Bazaar also had residential areas dominated by Goans, Parsis and Europeans, who owned much of the businesses in the Bazaar. The Bazaar was dominated by churches, mission schools, community halls and civic buildings owned and operated by trusts belonging to Christians (local and Europeans) and Parsis. To the south-east of Saddar Bazaar were the Civil Lines and military cantonment where the British officers lived and worked and where their clubs were located. Saddar Bazaar and its surrounding areas were known as the European city and here New Year and Easter were celebrated and balls were held. Three, the area between these two "cities" consisted of administrative and civic buildings and educational institutions of higher learning. And four, the area of Lyari and Machi Miani where the working classes lived. A diesel operated tramway linked these areas to each other and to the port.

The population of Karachi at that time was 450,000 of which 61.2 per cent was Sindhi speaking, 6.3 per cent was Urdu-Hindi speaking, 51 per cent was Hindu and 42 per cent was Muslim. By 1951 all this had changed and Karachi’s population had increased to 1.137 million because of the influx of 600,000 refugees from India. In 1951 the Sindhi speaking population was 8.6 per cent, the Urdu speaking population was 50 per cent, the Muslim population was 96 per cent and the Hindu population was 2 per cent1. These changes have had a major effect on the culture, politics and development of Karachi and its relationship to the politics of Sindh and Pakistan. For an understanding of the present situation in the city and the province, an understanding of the repercussions of these demographic changes is essential.

The Physical and Social Repercussions of Migration on Karachi

Karachi was made the capital of Pakistan in 1947. It was separated from Sindh and was known as the Federal Capital Area. Sindhi politicians and intellectuals objected to this separation since it also involved the taking over by the federal authorities of various civic buildings and institutions that previously belonged to the province. This was the first Karachi-Sindh conflict.

The 600,000 refugees who invaded the city occupied all open land and the empty buildings that the fleeing Hindus had left behind. These refugee settlements were multi-class and multi-ethnic. Intellectuals, artists, poets, performers and the working classes all lived together and in walking distance from Saddar Bazaar. Also, walking distance from the Bazaar a university was established in 1952 and the federal secretariat was constructed adjacent to the Bazaar. Embassies were established in the Civil Lines quarters, also walking distance from the Bazaar. The older educational institutions and the Courts of Law were already within walking distance of Saddar. Thus, within four years of the creation of Pakistan, Saddar Bazaar became the centre of the city with a cosmopolitan culture and Karachi became a high density multi-class city. Saddar’s old institutional buildings began to be used for civic functions, entertainment, musical programmes and professional conferences. Bookshops, eating places, bars and billiard rooms and night clubs developed. Politicians, students, diplomats, intellectuals and the working classes all shared this space. Cinemas increased and film festivals were held regularly.
However, the government was anxious to develop a plan for the city of Karachi that was in keeping with its position as the capital of Pakistan. In addition, it was anxious to develop proper accommodation for its civil servants and other employees. To this end, it developed cooperative housing societies around the then city. As a result, the more important and wealthier residents of Saddar and from the refugee settlements moved out. To tackle the problems of the rest of the residents of refugee settlements and new migrants coming from other parts of Pakistan, the government initiated a number of planning processes.


Source : Arif Hasan, Akbar Zaidi , Muhammad Younus, "Understanding Karachi" A publication of URC

1 comment:

Carl said...

The information about the Physical and Social Repercussions of Karachi is brilliant and also the other facts and information about the beautiful city is magnificent.


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