By Naseer Memon 

Ibne Qasim Garden KarachiThe demand for a new province in Karachi is based on distorted facts and misperceptions — that people living in Karachi are being exploited at the expense of rural communities. Such insinuations are far from reality; a disservice, to maim the fragile communal harmony in Sindh.

Although such statements are immediately rescinded to avoid an ensuing political catastrophe, they leave a bad feeling among the people of Sindh.

One would certainly accept demand for a better Karachi, but a demand for a separate ethnic province would only exacerbate a fractious political ambience in the province. Demagogic harangues can dupe gullible masses and trigger a bedlam but the long term repercussions will cause wanton damage for permanent residents of Sindh.

Unremitting felony and violence have tormented the socio-economic fabric of the city and no doubt collective endeavours should be made to resuscitate it.

While Karachi is home to a medley of intractable problems; it is so far the most prosperous city of the province and the country. A cursory look at various indicators of human development can corroborate this assertion.

According to the annual statistical bulletin of federal government employees and the employees of autonomous/semi-autonomous bodies/corporations (2011-12) issued by the Establishment Division, the urban Sindh’s share is actually higher than the allocation. In federal government jobs, urban Sindh has 26,871 seats compared to 34,224 of rural seats. It makes 44 per cent of provincial share, that is, four per cent higher than the allocation. In grade 22 jobs, urban Sindh has 13 seats against only three of rural Sindh.

Similarly, in autonomous bodies and corporations, urban Sindh has 49,265 seats against 39,595 of rural Sindh. It makes 55.42 per cent which is 15.42 per cent more than the allocated share as per constitution.

According to the annual statistical report 2010 of the Bureau of Statistics, Sindh has 1,825 major industrial establishments, of which 1,198 are located in Karachi. These industries provide better employment opportunities compared to a crumbling agriculture sector in rural areas.

Education is a key indicator of human development where rural Sindh is in a shambles. Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) 2013 ranks Karachi as the best district in the country. In Karachi, 73.4 per cent children of 3 to 5 years age have access to pre-school education, compared to 27.9 per cent in Umerkot and 29.9 per cent of Mirpurkhas.

In Sindh, Karachi has the lowest number of out-of-school children — 6.8 per cent compared to 46 per cent in Badin and 41.4 per cent in Tando Allahyar. Pakistan District Education Ranking 2013 of Alif Ailaan project also ranks Karachi at the top under all major indicators in Sindh province.

According to a news item published in Express Tribune (Feb 4, 2014), there are 9,866 private schools in the province, of which 6,215 are in Karachi providing better education opportunities to the city dwellers.

According to the official website of the Higher Education Commission, 24 of 25 private universities and degree awarding institutions of Sindh are located in Karachi. Additionally, there are six other such institutions working under the charter of the provincial government.

Health is also considered as a major indicator of social wellbeing. Karachi has the best health facilities and services available in the country. According to Sindh Health Sector Strategy 2012-20, Karachi has 134 private hospitals out of total 358 in the province. The city has 1,917 general practitioner clinics out of 4,122 in the province. Karachi has 176 obstetrics and gynecology specialists out of 243 in the whole province. Districts of Matyari, Tando Mohammad Khan, Badin, Tando Allahyar and Dadu do not have a single such expert available.

Similarly, the city has 171 pediatricians out of total 239 in Sindh. 1,123 nurses out of 1,407 nurses are in Karachi. Ten top institutions of medical and dental education are also located in Karachi. According to a 2010 report of the Pakistan Nursing Council, 25 recognised nursing colleges are located in Karachi and only five in the rest of Sindh. This explains the yawning gap of health implications in urban and rural Sindh.

According to the same report, prenatal care coverage in rural Sindh is only 49 per cent compared to 85 per cent in urban Sindh. The corresponding figures of postnatal care are 29 and 85 per cent. Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey 2003-04 reveals that 73 per cent deliveries are managed through institutions in Karachi, compared to 29 per cent in Thatta, 31 per cent in Tharparkar and only 18 per cent in Naushehro Feroz.

Infant mortality rate in Karachi is reported as lowest at 46 out of 1000 live births compared to an appalling MIR of 91 in Thatta, 90 in Jacobabad, 88 in Nawabshah, 84 in Larkano and 87 in Tharparkar and Badin.

According to the World Bank’s report Securing Sindh’s Future, 87 per cent children are immunised in urban Sindh compared to 62 per cent in rural areas. Mortality rate of up to 5-year age children is 55 out of 100,000 live births which is twice higher at 120 in rural areas.

These details sufficiently explain that urban Sindh has far better facilities and services in health sector which translates into better quality of life.

Overall ranking of districts under human development index also depicts Karachi far ahead of rural areas of Sindh and rest of the country. Studies conducted by various reputed organisations rank Karachi at the top on human development indicators. Social Policy and Development Centre (SPDC), a Karachi-based research organisation, produces high quality research reports in development sector. Annual report 2001 of SPDC “Growth, Inequity and Poverty” ranked Karachi as the lowest in Pakistan on deprivation index. At a scale of 1 to 16, Karachi stands 1st, compared to Badin at 16th, the most deprived district, followed by Thatta at 15th and Tharparkar at 14th numbers.

Another SPDC report, Social and Economic Development Ranking of Districts of Pakistan, also ranked Karachi as the most developed district in social sector. Next in Sindh was Hyderabad on 17th number and Naushehro Feroz on 22nd position. In 2003, UNDP issued National Human Development Report of Pakistan. Key indicators of human development e.g. literacy ratio, enrollment ratio, infant survival, immunisation, real GDP per capita, educational attainment were analysed to rank the districts. Karachi was ranked at number one in Sindh and number five in the country. A recently released official report by the government of Pakistan, Pakistan Millennium Development Goals Report-2013, ranks Karachi at top on 8 indicators thus outshining rural areas of the province.

With better quality of available facilities, it would be unfair to mourn for Karachi’s deprivation and demanding a separate province on such misleading assertions. No denial that life in Karachi is far below the desired one, yet it is far better than rural Sindh and most of the other cities of Pakistan. Rather than healing a tree, it would be more pertinent to save the forest.

Karachi can prosper only if the whole province thrives. Human development in Sindh has tumbled in recent decades and needs a serious attention. Due to chronic bad governance and violence, the province is descending into a social chaos which will engulf both urban and rural areas with equal intensity.

Sanity demands that leadership of Sindh should strive together for overall development of the province rather than issuing divisive statements which will serve no good purpose to the people of Sindh. Incongruent development portends ominous political implications as it only breeds discontent and disharmony.