Dr Alvi to the rescue

I am very fond of Dr Arif Alvi, who happens to be my MNA from the now well-known NA250. I have heard good things about him in his capacity as a dental practitioner and welcomed his election as my representative in parliament. I wish he spoke more on issues that confront this multi-ethnic constituency, but that would be digressing.

We need more professionals like him in parliament. I must confess, however, that the whole controversy surrounding the voting from that constituency makes me wonder who actually won that seat.

Given this, I was pleasantly surprised to see him take a stand against the blocking of a main road in Clifton, an up-market Karachi locality, which comes under his constituency. I support his point that public thoroughfares should not be blocked in the manner in which this road has been barricaded, that too at public expense. It takes me extra time to take de-tours when I am in the vicinity because the high and mighty have deemed it within their right to block this road on account of security threats.

The residents of the area suffer on a daily basis. I am all for doing away with such illegal encroachments on our public thoroughfares. I have been a strong supporter of our diplomatic missions being put into one place like has been done in Islamabad so that city roads are not blocked as a consequence. Then we have our politicians. I remember how Zulfikar Mirza had the road in front of his house blocked some time back and was only opened after the DHA took a firm stance against this. Or at least this is what we were told.

Two comparisons come to mind. I recall walking to a park in DHA Lahore and passed a row of houses that were the residence of former prime minister Yousaf Raza Gilani. The road wasn't blocked. There was just extra security on the sides. Similarly, no one actually knows where the Karachi residence of president Mamnoon Hussain is, except possibly his neighbours. More so, because the road outside his house hasn't been barricaded.

Doctor sahib has gotten the principle right. The problem, however, starts with who he has chosen to apply this. I have seen Bilawal House evolve. For many years, the house with high walls remained unprotected from any attack. In fact, I recall when Benazir Bhutto returned to Karachi in October 2007 and her convoy was attacked on Sharae Faisal. The next day Benazir Bhutto told us that her house had also been attacked by unidentified persons. The house was very vulnerable. Given this, one can expect the house to be barricaded when the party came to power. Bilawal House is also the rallying point for the PPP Jiyalas, or what is left of them. Now this issue is being turned into an attack on the house itself. But there is more to it.

Bilawal Bhutto's recent speech shows a stance to take the militants head on. It was a brave speech he made at Garhi Khuda Bux. Possibly that also makes him a target and given that he lives at this place when he is in Karachi, maybe it makes sense for some extra security. Neighbours tell me of underground bunkers now at the place. Lets hope they are.

I would be happy to see the wall go down and the road opened to traffic. But not just at Bilawal House.

We should also make this the case in other parts of the city. For example, there is a street in PECHS where a courier company operates. This too has been blocked for reasons best known to the government.

A part of Clifton has been barricaded because of the consulate of a friendly country. Maybe we can also break down those fences too. There are also gates and barricades on streets off Sharae Faisal. What about the media? One media house has actually eaten up an entire city road.

But is this all politics we are seeing ahead of the local bodies elections? Maybe that is indeed the case. Either way, in all this, a middle ground may be the best way to move ahead. Security should not come at the cost of public convenience. And a comprehensive plan should be in place so we ensure compliance by all, not just a few.
The Express Tribune


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