Written by: Hasan Iqbal
Karachi is a multicultural hub – home to 20 million people, the 7th largest city in the world, and the backbone of Pakistan. Like all other metropolitans, it hosts a plethora of ethnicities and opportunities, attracting people from all over the country in search of jobs. Then why has it been so notoriously dubbed ‘the most dangerous megacity’ in the world?
The city’s law and order situation, until very recently, has improved but looking at it holistically it still holds immense area for amelioration. Needless to say, Karachi is in desperate need of long-term security measures. While governments may come and go, the city’s past has shown us that it requires a foundation upon which all security measures should be based on to be effective. In essence, what Karachi needs is to be a Safe City – “A Safe City is a technology-driven concept, enabling inter-agency collaboration, efficient communication and better use of intelligence”. Such systems exist in places likes of London, Hong Kong, Beijing and, now at an introductory stage in Islamabad.
Just recently, Punjab government has also initiated Safe City project for five cities of the province starting from Lahore.
The federal capital has recently undergone the installation of Safe City mechanisms with 1,800 cameras monitoring car movements in residential areas and entry/ exit points. It has created a command and control center with over a hundred representatives answering calls to emergencies. The point that, whether it is managed efficiently and shows results is a matter of governance and funds – but one cannot deny that if done properly, such a system could do wonders for Karachi.
The problem is not the absence of law and order management authorities, but the issue is created because of their working in independent silos. A Safe City system will allow them to function in an integrated manner, each agency aware of each other’s responsibilities and sharing knowledge. The benefits are multifold as duplication of work will be avoided, an increase in productivity through utilization/maximization of existing technologies and technology enablement will occur which will allow day-to-day activities to be uniform and coordinated. As a result, management of with emergencies with becomes more efficient.
For the common man, peace of mind is what matters the most. A Safe City would not only limit the rate of crime but also lessen terrorist threats if entry points into the city are guarded. The plan could help with traffic management once the city’s main routes are monitored and alerts are sent out to divert traffic accordingly. The Safe City concept can work wonders on disaster control and recovery too once an elaborate system of communication and responses is established. The inevitable outcome of such a development would be of protection for citizens, improvement of business activity, giving confidence to the foreign market resulting in enhancement of FDI and strengthen our hope that one fine day we will be watching international cricket at our home ground.
One would tend to wonder what it would cost for a city which is as humongous as Karachi. It is however about time a long-term investment is made for the security of the average citizen, so they stop remaining helpless in the face of threat and reclaim the city that was always theirs, thus, restoring Karachi to its former title – The City of Lights.